UAE startups raise funding to expand to Saudi Arabia

Transportr addresses concerns such as freight rates, manual processes, enhanced visibility, traceability and customer service. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 01 July 2023
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UAE startups raise funding to expand to Saudi Arabia

  • Transportr facilitates efficient, transparent, and cost-effective movement of goods

CAIRO: Digital logistics platform Transportr has successfully concluded its eight-figure seed funding round with the participation of Ittihad Ventures Holding and Industrial Capital Group.  

Established in 2020, the UAE-based company acts as a multimodal digital freight marketplace, connecting shippers and carriers across various industries to facilitate efficient, transparent, and cost-effective movement of goods. 

The platform addresses concerns such as freight rates, manual processes, enhanced visibility, traceability and customer service. 

The proceeds from the funding round will be instrumental in driving the company’s growth within the UAE market and facilitating its expansion into Saudi Arabia, a key strategic move to tap into the thriving logistics sector in the region. 

Transportr is also building toward its next series A funding round.

“Transportr has evolved to managing all freight modes (road, sea, rail and air) in addition to warehousing, material handling, logistics education and more,” said Hassan Khazem, CEO of Transportr. 

He added: “Our vision is to provide any company with a one-stop shop digital solution to manage all its supply chain activities while having environmental, social, and governance factors in mind. We aim to unleash the power of aggregation and bring value to our partners such as significant cost savings, access to data analytics and artificial intelligence.”

Transportr’s notable capability lies in its ability to compare rates offered by various carriers, empowering shippers to make well-informed decisions about their shipping choices.

HashMove raises pre-series A to relocate to Saudi Arabia

UAE-based logistics platform HashMove has successfully raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-series A funding round led by

Bahrain’s Bunat Ventures in collaboration with a prominent Saudi business group.  

HashMove, established in 2017 by Noman Mohammad, Rayan Al Bakri, and Sarfaraz Alam, provides solutions for various logistics needs, including instant rate sourcing for the initial leg of transportation, efficient booking capabilities, and end-to-end cargo movements and tracking. 

The raised funds will play a crucial role in HashMove’s expansion plans, as well as the relocation of its headquarters to Saudi Arabia. The strategic move aims to capitalize on the Kingdom’s thriving logistics industry and position HashMove at the forefront of the market.  

By establishing a strong presence in Saudi Arabia, HashMove can enhance its service offerings and strengthen its network in the region. 

HashMove’s expansion and relocation to Saudi Arabia align with the company’s long-term vision of becoming a key player in the Middle East logistics market.  

The company has already signed deals with Saudi companies including United Warehousing Co., a third-party logistics powerhouse based in Jeddah.  

The new funding will enable HashMove to enhance its capabilities, scale its operations, and provide even greater value to its customers. HashMove has already attracted over 900 logistics providers across 90 countries and aims to revolutionize the global logistics landscape.

UzOman invests in Switzerland’s Zood 

UzOman, a collaborative investment fund established by the Omani and Uzbek sovereign wealth funds, has recently made an undisclosed investment in Swiss fintech company Zood. 

Founded in 2018 by Michael Khoi, Zood operates as a comprehensive digital lending platform, offering a complete ecosystem comprising ZoodPay for financial technology, ZoodMall for e-commerce, and ZoodShip for logistics solutions. 

The investment from UzOman is strategically aimed at driving digital lending innovation in Uzbekistan.  

By injecting funds into Zood, the joint investment fund intends to foster the growth and development of the fintech sector in the country.  This infusion of capital will support Zood in expanding its operations and further enhancing its digital lending services in Uzbekistan. 

“This investment is part of our ongoing efforts to promote and invest in Uzbekistan’s rapidly growing financial sector. Zood’s focus on providing innovative, convenient, and secure payment solutions align well with UzOman’s plans to invest in the financial sector in Uzbekistan and empower businesses and individuals with cutting-edge financial tools,” Mohamed Al-Lawati, CEO of UzOman, said. 

The collaboration between UzOman and Zood signifies a mutual commitment to leveraging technology and finance to advance the economic landscape of Uzbekistan.   

“UzOman’s investment is a testament to Zood’s pioneering role in driving financial inclusion through a holistic ecosystem that provides comprehensive solutions for individuals and businesses in Central Asia and the Middle East. We are proud to collaborate with UzOman to further expand our reach and impact, creating economic opportunities in Uzbekistan,” Khoi said.

VMS acquires stakes in Cash Cows    

The startup ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa is poised to get a boost as Saudi Arabia-based venture studio VMS has acquired minority stakes in Egyptian start-up accelerator Cash Cows.  The purchase of stakes is part of a strategic partnership agreement aimed at supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem in both countries and in the wider MENA region, according to a press release. The press release further noted that the partnership will see Cash Cows and VMS launching a joint platform for exchanging ideas, collaboration, and mutual learning between them.  

The platform will also provide ways for startups, investors, and entrepreneurs to access critical decisions that ensure their success, it added.   

Motaz Saleh Abuonoq, founder and CEO of VMS said that the company’s expansion in the Egyptian market was an important and strategic goal.   

VMS  supports talented startups entering the Saudi market and provides them with guidance, resources, expertise, and connections.

Mohamed Nagaty, partner at Cash Cows, said the partnership with VMS will contribute to building a bridge between Egypt and Saudi Arabia for startups, along with expanding the scope of operations for both companies.  

The coming together of two regional accelerators is aimed at providing resources and support for startups and drawing a clear map for investors to achieve excellence in the highly competitive market, the release added.


Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

Updated 13 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia GDP growth higher than G20 average: OECD

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s economy witnessed growth of 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024 – higher than that seen across the G20 as a whole, according to new data.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has released its latest gross domestic product report for the G20 countries, noting that the Kingdom bounced back from a contraction of 0.6 percent in the previous three-month period. 

GDP in the G20 area grew by 0.9 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2024, slightly up from 0.7 percent in the previous quarter. 

The economic performance of the G20 area was primarily driven by China and India, with Turkiye, Korea, and Indonesia also recording higher GDP growth than the G20 average. 

Turkiye led with an increase of 2.4 percent, followed by India at 1.9 percent, China at 1.6 percent, Korea at 1.3 percent, and Indonesia at 1.2 percent. 

The report highlighted that while Saudi Arabia experienced a significant recovery, other G20 countries faced varying economic conditions. 

The US saw a slowdown, with GDP growth dropping to 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year from 0.8 percent in the previous quarter. 

Japan’s economy contracted by 0.5 percent, and South Africa saw a contraction of 0.1 percent. 

Conversely, Brazil, the UK, and Germany showed signs of recovery in the first quarter of 2024 after contractions over the previous three month period, with growth reaching 0.8 percent, 0.6 percent, and 0.2 percent, respectively. 

Canada, Mexico, and the EU grew by 0.4 percent, 0.3 percent, and 0.3 percent, respectively, in the three months to the end of March, after zero growth in the final quarter of 2023. 

Year-on-year, GDP in the G20 area grew by 3.3 percent in the first three months of the year, maintaining the same growth rate as the previous quarter. 

Among G20 economies, India recorded the highest year-on-year growth rate at 8.4 percent in the first quarter of 2024, followed by Turkiye at 7.4 percent. 

However, Saudi Arabia recorded the most significant year-on-year decline at a drop of 1.5 percent. 

According to a separate report by the General Authority for Statistics released earlier in June, the Kingdom’s non-oil activities also rose by 0.9 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter.  

Additionally, non-oil activities increased by 3.4 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2024.  

GASTAT further noted that Saudi Arabia’s GDP amounted to SR1.01 trillion ($270 billion) in the first quarter.  

“Crude oil and natural gas activities achieved the highest contribution to GDP by 23.4 percent, followed by government activities at 15.8 percent, and then wholesale and retail trade, restaurants, and hotels activities with a contribution of 10.4 percent,” said GASTAT in the report.  

Strengthening the non-oil private sector is crucial for Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom is steadily diversifying its economy to reduce its decades-long dependence on oil.  

The report further noted that government activities in Saudi Arabia rose by 2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter while declining by 1.1 percent on a quarter-on-quarter basis.  

GASTAT added that the Kingdom’s oil activities increased by 1.7 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter.  

However, oil activities dipped by 11.2 percent year-on-year as Saudi Arabia reduced its crude production in line with the decision of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+.  

To maintain market stability, Saudi Arabia reduced its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day in April 2023, and this cut has now been extended until December 2024.  

In April, the International Monetary Fund projected that Saudi Arabia’s economy would grow by 2.6 percent in 2024 and 6 percent in 2025.  

In the same month, the World Bank also raised the growth prospects of the Kingdom’s economy to 5.9 percent in 2025, up from an earlier projection of 4.2 percent. 

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia’s gross fixed capital formation surged to SR317.5 billion in the first quarter of 2024, marking a significant 7.9 percent increase compared to the same period last year. 

According to a separate report by the Saudi Ministry of Investment released earlier this month, gross fixed capital formation expansion was driven by growth in both the government and non-government sectors.  

GFCF, which represents the net increase in physical assets within an economy, plays a crucial role in gross domestic product as it reflects capital accumulation supporting future production capabilities and economic growth. 

Of the total GFCF, the government sector contributed 7 percent, experiencing a robust growth rate of 18 percent. Meanwhile, the non-government sector, constituting 93 percent, also saw a substantial rise of 7.2 percent. 

Saudi Arabia’s proactive efforts to attract foreign direct investment and bolster bilateral relations have significantly strengthened the Kingdom’s economic trajectory.  

FDI serves as a pivotal catalyst for GFCF development, facilitating funding for investment projects and resource and knowledge transfer across borders, thereby fostering economic expansion and maturation. 

Key initiatives such as the National Investment Strategy, the Regional Headquarters Program, and zero-income tax incentives for foreign entities play a vital role in advancing Vision 2030, which aims to diversify and expand the economy. 

During this quarter, the Ministry of Investment issued 3,157 investment licenses, marking a 93 percent surge compared to the same period last year, excluding licenses issued under the anti-concealment law. 

In its economic and investment monitor released in late May, the ministry revealed that the construction and manufacturing sector dominated with 47 percent of total permits, followed by vocational and educational activities, information and communication technology and accommodation and food services as well as wholesale and retail trade. 

The real estate sector witnessed the most significant year-on-year growth, with a staggering 253.3 percent increase in investment licenses. 

Furthermore, 127 international firms secured permits to relocate their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of 2024, reflecting a remarkable 477 percent year-on-year upsurge. 

Leading corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as Northern Trust, Bechtel, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Deloitte have established operations in the Kingdom under this program. 

The report also highlights that Saudi Arabia processed 445 applications for investor visit visas during the first quarter of this year, enabling overseas businesspersons to explore opportunities in the country. 


Oil Updates – crude slips on US growth worries, ample crude supply

Updated 13 June 2024
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Oil Updates – crude slips on US growth worries, ample crude supply

HOUSTON/SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell in early trade on Thursday, as investors digested that the US Federal Reserve had likely pushed back an interest rate cut possibly to December, while ample US crude and fuel stocks also weighed on the market, according to Reuters.

Brent crude futures lost 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $82.23 a barrel, as of 9:55 a.m. Saudi time, and US West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 34 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $78.16. Both benchmarks had gained about 0.8 percent in the previous session.

The Fed held rates steady on Wednesday and pushed out the start of policy easing to perhaps as late as December.

Higher borrowing costs tend to dampen economic growth, and can by extension, limit oil demand.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a press conference after the US central bank’s two-day policy meeting ended that inflation had fallen without a major blow to the economy, adding that there was no reason to think that can’t go on.

On the supply side, US crude stockpiles rose more than expected last week, driven largely by a jump in imports, while fuel inventories also increased more than anticipated, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.

Also weighing on prices was a bearish report by the International Energy Agency, which warned of excess supply in the near future.

“This is in stark contrast to the bullish report from OPEC+ earlier this week. The oil group maintained its forecasts for strengthening demand,” analysts at ANZ Research said.

Traders are also watching ongoing talks for a ceasefire in Gaza, which, if resolved, would reduce fears of potential supply disruptions from the oil producing region.

In the latest attack on shipping, Iran-allied Houthi militants on Wednesday took responsibility for small watercraft and missile attacks that left a Greek-owned coal carrier in need of rescue near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

The militant group has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea region since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas.

Late on Wednesday, Palestinian militant group Hamas issued a statement stressing its “positivity” in the ceasefire negotiations.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas had proposed numerous changes to a US-backed proposal for a ceasefire, adding that mediators were determined to close the gaps. 


Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

Updated 12 June 2024
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Global businesses urged to acknowledge role in human development

RIYADH: Businesses worldwide must acknowledge their role in shaping human development, paralleling the responsibility of governments, said a top Saudi official.

During a panel discussion titled “Board of Changemakers: Invest in Dignity” at the Future Investment Initiative Priority Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar emphasized the absence of a sense of collective impact on a global scale.

This observation coincides with ongoing geopolitical tensions such as the conflict in Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine tensions.

“If the business world fails to recognize its responsibility in shaping human development, akin to the responsibility of governments, we are all lost,” Princess Reema stated.

She stressed the importance of broadening the understanding of the beneficiaries of business activities, underscoring that social impact is as crucial as financial return.

“And I think we forget that we need to broaden our understanding of who is impacted by the work that we do, who is impacted by our gain, who is impacted by our profit,” she added.

Princess Reema highlighted that social stability and growth are prerequisites for sustainable business success.

“If we’re talking about investing in dignity, we have to invest in stability, we have to invest in growth, we have to invest an opportunity,” the Saudi envoy noted.

In another panel titled “Will Ascending Economic Powers Reshape the Future of Investment?” Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb discussed the Kingdom’s shift from an oil-centric focus to diversifying into sectors like tourism and mining, as outlined in Vision 2030.

Al-Khateeb outlined three essential pillars for this transformation: a clear vision for the future, leadership and commitment, and a long-term perspective.

“First, it requires a very clear vision for the future, and we have an amazing leader, the crown prince, who established this vision and second it requires a leadership and willingness and we are all, you know, fully committed to make this happen,” the minister said.

“And the third pillar is a long-term view, we must have a long-term view about the future. We must not just look at the short term rather than look at the long term.”

The summit, themed “Invest in Dignity,” aims to explore how investments in renewable energy, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, and social impact can prioritize human dignity in policymaking. Discussions also focus on safeguarding the dignity of all citizens as a fundamental goal for economic decision-makers.


Saudi EXIM forges key international partnerships during Greek visit

Updated 12 June 2024
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Saudi EXIM forges key international partnerships during Greek visit

 RIYADH: Saudi EXIM Bank and its Swedish counterpart have signed an agreement to enhance the Kingdom’s non-oil exports and explore trade and investment opportunities. 

In an X post following the deal, the Saudi lender stated that the memorandum of understanding with the Swedish Export Credit Agency was inked in the Greek capital, Athens.

The agreement, signed by Saad Al-Khalb, CEO of Saudi EXIM, and Anna-Karin Jatko, director general of EKN, aims to enhance cooperation between the two sides, improving access and expanding the Kingdom’s non-oil exports into the Swedish markets. 

Al-Khalb was in Athens to participate in the TXF Global 2024 event held from June 11 to 12. The event brought together executive leaders, policymakers, and experts in the field of export credit from various countries worldwide. 

During a panel discussion, the CEO emphasized that Saudi EXIM has extended $12 billion in credit facilities encompassing both lending and insurance. He outlined the organization’s ambition to achieve an annual facility exceeding $20 billion by 2030. 

Al-Khalb underscored that the bank has issued the largest insurance policy in the Middle East, valued at $2 billion, covering 450 financial institutions.  

Additionally, he highlighted the bank’s contributions to Saudi Arabia’s sustainability and renewable energy initiatives, both domestically and internationally.   

During the tour, Al-Khalb also met with Raja Al-Mazrouei, CEO of Etihad Credit Insurance of the UAE. The discussions revolved around identifying areas of collaboration to boost bilateral and regional trade, promote mutual commercial projects, and improve the efficiency of transactions with global markets, according to official statements. 

Additionally, he met with John Hopkins, the CEO of Export Finance Australia. Their discussions centered on exploring opportunities for collaboration to enhance economic ties and trade between their respective countries. They also explored ways to facilitate the entry of Saudi non-oil exports into the Australian markets. 

Additionally, the Saudi CEO engaged in discussions with Andre Gazal, the Global Head of Financing at Credit Agricole Bank of France. They reviewed the progress of projects stemming from the memorandum of understanding signed between their organizations in 2023. 

Furthermore, they explored potential avenues for collaboration to facilitate Saudi exports in the targeted markets across the African continent.   

 

Additionally, Al-Khalb convened with Richard Hodder, the managing director and global head of export agency finance at Citibank. Their discussions focused on identifying optimal methods to strengthen mutual cooperation and offer the requisite credit solutions to bolster the expansion of Saudi non-oil exports in targeted markets.  

They also delved into collaboration opportunities in financing priority projects and industries. 

With a vision to empower the Saudi non-oil economy in global markets, the bank is also on a mission to facilitate the Kingdom’s exports’ access to global markets by bridging financing gaps and mitigating export risks. 

Additionally, Al-Khalb met with Tone Lunde Bakker, CEO of Export Finance Norway, to discuss opportunities for collaborative efforts aimed at bolstering trade relations, fostering investment opportunities between their respective countries, and facilitating the entry of Saudi non-oil exports into the Norwegian markets. 


Closing Bell: Saudi main index continues it downward movement

Updated 12 June 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi main index continues it downward movement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index continued its downward trend for the third consecutive day as it shed 123.66 points to close at 11,651.81 on Wednesday.

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR10.38 billion ($2.77 billion) with 38 stocks advancing and 195 declining. 

Saudi Arabia’s parallel market Nomu also shed 198.71 points to close at 26,649.44.

The MSCI Tadawul Index slipped by 1.12 percent on to 1,456.40.

The best-performing stock of the day was Saudi Manpower Solutions Co. The firm’s share price soared by 20.67 percent to SR9.05. 

Other top performers included Miahona Co. and Retal Urban Development Co., whose share prices surged by 9.96 percent and 7.11 percent respectively. 

The worst performer of the day was Al-Baha Investment and Development Co. as its share price edged down by 7.14 percent to SR0.13. 

Rawasi Albina Investment Co. emerged as the best performer on Nomu with its share price increasing by 9.25 percent to SR5.79. 

The share price of Pan Gulf Marketing Co. and Tam Development Co. also surged by 7.78 percent and 7 respectively. 

On the announcements front, Jahez International Company for Information System Technology disclosed that it purchased a real estate property at a value of SR150 million in Riyadh’s Al-Mohammadiyah district in Riyadh. 

In a Tadawul statement, the company noted that the transaction will be financed from banking facilities at a value of SR105 million, while the remaining payment will be paid through the company’s own resources. 

Meanwhile, TAM Development Co. announced that shareholders approved the board of directors’ recommendation to distribute a 12.3 percent cash dividend, or SR1.23 per share for the last financial year.