Saudi Arabia leading region’s transformative journey 

Saudi Venture Capital’s strategic initiatives have positioned Saudi Arabia as a leader in venture investments within the MENA region for the first time in 2023. (SPA)
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Updated 20 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia leading region’s transformative journey 

  • SVC makes significant strides in shaping private investment landscape

CAIRO: A wave of venture capital funding has washed over the Middle East and North Africa region, prompting transformative change in the entrepreneurial landscape.

Saudi Arabia’s government is leading the shift through a subsidiary of the SME Bank, part of the National Development Fund.  

The Kingdom’s Saudi Venture Capital has made significant strides in shaping the private investment landscape, deploying finance across 40 investment funds and over 700 startups and small and medium-sized enterprises.  

This was highlighted in the latest Impact Report issued by SVC, which detailed its contributions since its inception in 2018. 

The document revealed that SVC’s total investments have reached SR2.6 billion ($693.1 million), with the overall impact of these, including partner commitments, estimated at around SR13.6 billion.  

These investments span various sectors critical to economic diversification, such as e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, educational technologies, transportation, and logistics. 

“SVC plays a crucial part in stimulating the private VC investment to sustain and foster the steady growth of the VC ecosystem in the Kingdom,” Nabeel Koshak, CEO of SVC, said.  

“SVC’s strategy, since its inception in 2018, contributed to increasing the number of investors in Saudi startups, encouraging existing and new financial companies to establish VC funds, and motivating regional and global funds to invest in Saudi startups,” Koshak stated. 

“Accordingly, the funding deployed into Saudi Arabian startups grew 21 times to a record-high of $1.4 billion in 2023 versus $65 million in 2018, the year SVC was launched,” he added. 

Significantly, SVC’s strategic initiatives have positioned Saudi Arabia as a leader in venture investments within the MENA for the first time in 2023.  

This milestone reflects the broader economic and financial sector evolution under Saudi Vision 2030, aimed at enhancing the national economy. 

Saudi Arabia’s Penny Software closes undisclosed pre-series A round 

Closing its pre-series A funding round, Saudi Arabia’s Penny Software raised an undisclosed sum from Iliad Partners, joined by GSI and US-based Knollwood Investments, alongside existing investors such as Dallah Investment, Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, Class 5 Global, Altuwajiri family fund, and strategic angel investors.  

Founded in 2020 by Iyad Al-Dalooj, Majid Al-Dalooj, and Mohamad Ibrahim, Penny Software is a business to business Software-as-a-Service procurement startup that digitizes the entire source-to-pay process, thereby enhancing spend efficiency, governance, and compliance. 

“This investment from Iliad Partners, alongside the continued support from our existing and new investors, represents a significant vote of confidence in Penny Software’s vision and our team’s ability to execute,” Iyad Al-Dalooj, the CEO, said. 

“We are excited to leverage this partnership to scale our operations, enhance our product offering, and solidify our position as a leader in the procurement software industry. The future of procurement is here, and Penny Software is at the forefront of this transformation,” he added. 

This new capital infusion is poised to fuel Penny’s ambitions for regional and global expansion.  

This follows a successful $5 million seed funding round in 2021, led by Outliers Venture Capital with participation from Wamda, Shorooq Partners, Hambro Perks ORYX Fund, Class 5 Global, and strategic angel investors.  

Penny Software aims to leverage this investment to further enhance its platform capabilities and broaden its market reach, reinforcing its position in the competitive SaaS industry. 

The company claims that it is set to manage a gross transaction value of over $1 billion this year, and ease procurement for thousands of companies globally. 

“Saudi Arabia is an economy that is undergoing a major transformation in which technology is playing a key role. This is our first investment in the Kingdom, and we plan to invest a significant portion of our fund in this market, supporting strong founders on their journey from the pre-series A stage and onwards,” Christos Mastoras, founder and managing partner of Iliad Partners, stated   

UAE’s DocsInBox closes $500k in a funding round 

UAE’s e-invoicing and procurement startup DocsInBox closed a $500,000 funding round from angel investors to boost its presence. 

Founded by serial entrepreneurs Leonid Dovbenko and Stanislav Seleznev,  DocsInBox significantly streamlines invoicing and procurement processes, saving up to 1 million hours each month, the company claimed.  

The platform enables purchasing agents to place orders in just three clicks, while accountants can complete tasks in 13 seconds that previously took 300 seconds.  

By automating procurement, DocsInBox reduces manual labor by 15 percent, operational costs by 5 percent, and food costs by 8 percent.  

UAE’s U-topia secures $850k in funding round 

UAE-based Web3 services provider U-topia has secured $850,000 in funding from GDA Capital. 

Established in 2021 by Jérémy Mahieu and Nicolas Prévost, U-topia operates as a Web3 entertainment company that merges global intellectual property licensing in GameFi, artificial intelligence music, and video entertainment supported by non-fungible token provenance.  

The newly acquired investment is earmarked for the development of advanced features and technologies on the U-topia platform, aiming to enhance its offerings in the dynamic Web3 landscape. 

Nigeria’s VC firm Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures closes $60m fund 

Nigeria-based VC firm Verod-Kepple Africa Ventures has concluded a final close of $60 million for its pan-African VC fund, led by existing investors and new investors, including SCM Capital from Nigeria and institutional investors from Japan, including Taiyo Holdings and C2C Global Education Japan. 

Formed in 2021 as a joint venture between Kepple Africa Ventures and Verod Holdings, VKAV is led by partners Satoshi Shinada, Ryosuke Yamawaki, and Ory Okolloh. 

The fund aims to bridge the funding gap for African startups, especially for companies moving to series A and B stages. 

Egypt’s VC firm Beltone teams up with UAE’s CI Venture to manage a $30m fund 

Egypt’s Beltone Venture Capital, under Beltone Holding, has teamed up with CI Venture Capital from UAE’s Citadel International Holdings to manage a $30 million fund aimed at nurturing fast-growing startups.  

This collaborative fund is set to invest in pre-seed and seed funding rounds of innovative tech startups across the MENA region while also continuing to support standout performers within its existing portfolio. 

In recent months, the fund has actively begun deploying capital, finalizing investments in several startups, including Bosta, Trella, Qlub, and ariika.  
 


Private aviation soars in Saudi Arabia as more businesses take to the skies

Updated 25 May 2024
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Private aviation soars in Saudi Arabia as more businesses take to the skies

  • Sector set to grow at compounded annual growth rate of 8.88 percent between 2025 and 2029

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s business aviation sector is experiencing a surge fueled by the Kingdom’s expanding economy, significant government investment on infrastructure, and a growing influx of high-net-worth individuals.

Valued at $1.2 billion in 2023 according to TechSCI research, this segment is projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 8.88 percent between 2025 and 2029.

It was also highlighted in the General Authority of Civil Aviation’s roadmap unveiled at Riyadh’s Future Aviation Forum in May.

The roadmap aims to support the Kingdom’s development as a global high-value business and tourist destination.

Additionally, it targets a tenfold increase in the contribution to gross domestic product by the general aviation sector to $2 billion by 2030, covering the business jet segment, including charter, private, and corporate planes.

Farid Gharzeddine, captain and CEO of Dubai based private jet company SkyMark Executive, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia’s private aviation and charter business have always been thriving, serving individuals, business executives, government officials, and special missions.”

Farid Gharzeddine, Captain and CEO of SkyMark Executive. (Supplied)

He added: “In 2023, this sector experienced significant growth driven by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its efforts to diversify away from oil, particularly through the promotion of sectors such as tourism and entertainment. These initiatives had a substantial impact on the private charter industry, influencing both destinations and clientele.”

During this timeframe, he explained that SkyMark Executive, functioning as a private aircraft provider, observed a significant uptick in requests for flights transporting tourists, entertainers, and artists from abroad to emerging destinations such as AlUla, the Red Sea airport, and others.

The Red Sea International Airport, located within three hours’ flying time of 250 million people, launched its first international flights earlier this year.

With a capacity to serve 1 million guests annually, according to the group’s CEO John Pagano, this milestone marks a significant step towards establishing Saudi Arabia as a premier global tourism destination.

According to a research by Mortor intelligence, the GCC region is highly promising for business aviation, and is also a lucrative market for the private aviation sector, due to the presence of a large number of high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals in the region.

The influx of multinational companies establishing regional headquarters in Riyadh, driven by the Kingdom's efforts to increase foreign direct investment, may have boosted demand for private aviation. This stems from the need for efficient, flexible travel options for corporate executives and high-net-worth individuals, fueling growth in private jet and charter services.

Players are investing in technological advancements to enhance aircraft manufacturing, navigation, and maintenance, anticipating growth in demand for new business jet models offering increased cabin space and long-range capabilities.

Manufacturers such as Gulfstream, Bombardier, and Embraer are focusing on luxury, technology, and performance enhancements to appeal to GCC customers, positioning themselves for growth in the forecast period.

Manufacturers are focusing on luxury, technology, and performance enhancements to appeal to GCC customers, positioning themselves for growth in the forecast period. (Supplied)

Evidence of this is Qatar Executive’s position as the largest operator in the world for two new models from Gulfstream, G500 and G650ER.

Gharzeddine commented that his company’s clients from Saudi Arabia are often one of the most discerning clientele and prioritize state-of-the-art technological advancements when selecting aircraft for their travel needs.

“These clients prioritize excellence in service delivery, emphasizing both technological sophistication and exceptional service standards. They are committed to enhancing their travel experiences to achieve the utmost levels of comfort, safety, and luxury,” he added.

Furthermore, this segment can benefit from Saudi Arabia’s aviation strategy, which aims to expand connectivity to over 250 destinations by 2030. A key component of this plan is privatization, exemplified by the Kingdom's implementation of the first successful public-private partnership model in the Middle East.

GACA also announced during the Future Aviation Forum its targeted investments in six new specialized general aviation airports in the Kingdom, alongside other initiatives.

"These investments are anticipated to enhance infrastructure and service quality within the private aviation sector, making it more appealing to high-net-worth individuals and corporate clients," Gharzeddine commented.

"Improved facilities and services will likely drive increased demand for private jet charters and ownership, boosting the overall efficiency and capacity of the aviation sector. Additionally, these developments will help position Saudi Arabia as a key hub for private aviation in the Gulf region," he added.

Charter business and sustainability

Leading the change in sustainable aviation growth, Saudi Arabia announced its finalization of a comprehensive plan in November to address environmental sustainability within its civil aviation sector, in line with international commitments such as the 2015 Paris  Agreement.

Spearheaded by GACA, the Civil Aviation Environmental Sustainability Plan targets the reduction of greenhouse gas releases, with a zero-emissions goal by 2060.

Saudi Arabia’s initiatives extend to hydrogen fuel infrastructure and green projects like the Circular Carbon Economy, while major developments such as AMAALA and the Red Sea project reflect a commitment to net-zero emissions.

Global business and government leaders consider sustainable aviation fuel a key opportunity for significant reductions in air travel emissions, with numerous initiatives underway to make this energy product a reality.

SAF is derived from renewable hydrocarbon sources and can reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent compared to traditional fossil-based jet fuel.

However, the primary challenge is supply and demand, as production needs to increase significantly to meet the set targets by 2030.

According to Gharzeddine, in addition to the limited supply, achieving economies of scale to reduce production costs is also an ongoing issue, as is the high charge of specialized processing required for biofuels.

Maryam Al-Balooshi, the UAE’s lead negotiator for aviation climate change, also emphasized the urgent need for Gulf countries to produce SAF to compete in the Western-dominated market and support greener flights, as reported by the National News in February.

An important aspect to consider is how technology and artificial intelligence can play pivotal roles in driving sustainable aviation. Advanced flight planning systems use AI to optimize flight paths, reducing fuel consumption and minimizing carbon emissions.

“By analyzing weather patterns, air traffic, and aircraft performance in real-time, AI can suggest more efficient routes and altitudes, ensuring flights operate at maximum efficiency,” Gharzeddine explained.

Predictive maintenance powered by AI also enhances sustainability by identifying potential issues before they become significant problems, thereby reducing downtime and extending the lifespan of aircraft components.

Additionally, AI-driven data analytics can help monitor and manage the carbon footprint of each flight, enabling operators to make informed decisions about fuel usage, weight management, and other factors that influence emissions.

By leveraging advanced technology, AI, and SAF, the private aviation sector in Saudi Arabia can meet growing demand while setting a benchmark for sustainability in the global aviation industry.


From tennis to paper, PIF pushes ahead with its diverse investments strategy in 2024

Updated 25 May 2024
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From tennis to paper, PIF pushes ahead with its diverse investments strategy in 2024

  • Sovereign wealth fund continues to drive forward Kingdom’s economic diversification agenda

RIYADH: Tennis, tech and paper production are just some of the areas Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has reached into so far in 2024, as the body continues to drive forward the Kingdom’s economic diversification agenda.

The sovereign wealth fund has continued with the momentum built up in 2023, which saw it make investments in companies as diverse as London’s Heathrow Airport and Rocco Forte Hotels.

Its activities since the turn of the year saw PIF revise its asset size on its website, reaching $925.2 billion after it climbed to the fifth spot in a ranking of state-owned investment organizations by the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

This monumental rise in the fund’s standing followed its procurement of an additional 8 percent stake in Aramco, boosting its shareholding’s estimated value to $328 billion.

Here are some of the key announcements made by the wealth fund so far in 2024

PIF’s deal with Bahrain Mumtalakat to enhance investments

One of the primary deals signed by PIF in the first quarter was a memorandum of understanding inked with Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat in March.

The agreement aims to expand cooperation between the two parties, enable new and promising investment prospects in Bahrain, and create opportunities for private companies in both countries.

Yazeed Al-Humied, deputy governor and head of MENA Investments at PIF, said the deal supports the wealth fund’s objectives of building long-term strategic regional partnerships that bring additional value to local economies.

“It also enables the achievement of sustainable returns that further contribute to maximizing PIF’s assets and diversifying the economy in line with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030,”
said Al-Humeid.

PIF acquired 40 percent stake in Zamil Offshore

In February, the wealth fund acquired a 40 percent stake in Zamil Offshore Co., a significant move that could boost marine support services in Saudi Arabia.

In a press statement, PIF revealed that this investment is part of the fund’s broader strategy to contribute to the development of the Kingdom’s energy base.

Zamil Offshore Co. is one of the largest Saudi-based offshore support providers, operating over 90 vessels in the Arabian Gulf.

Bakr Al-Muhanna, head of the Transport and Logistics Sector in Middle East and North Africa Investments at PIF, said that this investment will strengthen the offshore support industry, contributing to the fund’s wider efforts to develop Saudi Arabia’s energy ecosystem.

PIF’s efforts to accelerate growth of global tennis sports

In February, the wealth fund signed a multi-year strategic agreement with the Association of Tennis Professionals aimed at accelerating the growth of the sport globally.

“Through our collaboration with ATP, PIF will be a catalyst for the growth of the global tennis landscape, developing talent, fostering inclusivity and driving sustainable innovation. This strategic partnership aligns with our broader vision to enhance quality of life and drive transformation in sport both within Saudi and across the world,” said Mohamed Al-Sayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF.

Under the deal, PIF will leverage ATP’s expertise to develop further opportunities for young Saudis in wtennis, including the development of state-of-the-art facilities and ensuring the availability of necessary coaching in the Kingdom.

In February,  PIF signed a multi-year strategic agreement with the Association of Tennis Professionals aimed at accelerating the growth of the sport globally. (Supplied)

 

The launch of Alat

Another significant development in February was the launch of Alat, a PIF firm aimed at turning Saudi Arabia into a global hub for sustainable technology manufacturing.

The company will prioritize constructing products tailored for local and international markets across seven strategic business units. These include advanced industries and semiconductors, smart appliances and health solutions, as well as smart devices and building technologies.

Alat will also manufacture more than 30 product categories that will serve vital sectors, including robotic and communication systems, advanced computers and digital entertainment, as well as advanced heavy machinery used in construction, building and mining.

Acquisition of Mepco in diversification push

In January, PIF bought a 23.08 percent stake in the Middle East Paper Co. as the fund continued expanding its investments in the Saudi economy’s primary sectors.

According to a statement, the body acquired the stakes by increasing capital and subscribing to new shares in Mepco. Muhammad Aldawood, PIF’s head of the industrials and mining sector in the Middle East and North Africa region, said the fund’s investment in Mepco reflects the attractive growth opportunities in promising sectors such as recycling, retail, and building materials.

The fund added that PIF’s investment in Mepco will support the private sector in Saudi Arabia, boost local content, increase exports as well as improve quality and competitiveness.

Sami Al-Safran, CEO of MEPCO, said that PIF’s investment will help the company become a national champion in the recycling industry.

“PIF’s investment further enables the implementation of our expansion strategy and captures significant growth potential, both locally and regionally,” said Al-Safran.

In January, PIF bought a 23.08 percent stake in the Middle East Paper Co. as the fund continued expanding its investments. (Supplied)

Completion of the acquisition of Dubai-based Kent

In February, Saudi contractor Nesma & Partners, backed by PIF, completed the acquisition of Kent, based in Dubai, after signing an agreement in 2023.

In a statement, Nesma said that the acquisition aligns with the company’s strategic growth strategy and aims to position the firm as a global leader in the construction industry.

“The acquisition of Kent represents a significant milestone for Nesma & Partners, reinforcing our commitment to expanding our capabilities and enhancing our position in the global market,” said Samer Abdul Samad, president and CEO of Nesma & Partners.

According to the acquisition details, Kent and Nesma do not plan to integrate operations, and both firms will continue their existing projects.

PIF aims to strengthen electric motorsports sector

In January, the wealth fund signed a multi-year agreement named Electric 360 with Formula E, Extreme E and E1 to support the growth of electric motorsports and their role in advancing the future of electric mobility.

In a press statement, PIF said the partnership will drive technological innovation and revolutionize sustainable transport and future mobility, ultimately reducing carbon emissions.

“Together with these championship series, Electric 360 will redefine electric sport and supercharge its growth, delivering tangible impact aligned with our broader business strategy as PIF drives new green technological innovation that will be the cornerstone of future electric mobility,” said Mohamed Al-Sayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF.


Saudi Arabia’s open banking strategy a game-changer

Updated 25 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s open banking strategy a game-changer

  • Initiative enables customers to securely share their data with third parties

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s embracing of open banking has transformed the region’s financial ecosystem, according to a top fintech CEO.

In an interview with Arab News, Abdulla Al-Moayed, head of Tarabut, praised the Kingdom’s central bank for its inclusive regulatory impact on the financial sector. 

In May 2022, the institution, also known as SAMA, went live with its open banking initiative, which has altered the future of financial technology in the Kingdom and the wider region.

Open banking is a technological innovation that enables customers to securely share their data with third parties.

“Open banking changes the very nature of relationships across the financial ecosystem for Saudi Arabia and for the region as a whole. This is only a good thing,” said Al-Moayed.

Echoing those sentiments, CEO of US-based fintech MoneyHash Nader Abdelrazik, told Arab News: “Open banking (in Saudi Arabia) will significantly catalyze the relationship between banks and fintech, and it will open up a multitude of business use-cases.” 

He added: “Banking and finance innovation is highly dependent on access and adoption of open data frameworks. Once these frameworks are in place, not only the existing banks and fintechs will collaborate more, but it will also attract more banks and fintechs to expand to the market and embed their solutions.” 

Abdelrazik believes this will increase the economy’s digital sophistication and competitiveness, “but the real winner here is the consumer.”  

In its Open Banking Policy report, SAMA said its initiatives focus on “nurturing the rise of digital technologies and their impact on the new financial services enabled by them, as well as building the regulatory framework needed to adopt these initiatives.” 

The release further stated: “This opens the door to create and offer new financial services. Therefore, SAMA sees open banking as a pivotal role in the further development of the Kingdom’s financial sector.”

Al-Moayed explained that SAMA’s efforts to standardize application programming interfaces or APIs, are enhancing the country’s monetary platforms, which aim to broaden financial inclusion by facilitating secure, seamless, and affordable access to services and advice. 

APIs allow different software applications to communicate with each other, facilitating the integration and sharing of data and functions. 

“Standardized APIs enable interoperability between providers, leading to a more cohesive financial ecosystem,” Al-Moayed said. 

Open banking changes the very nature of relationships across the financial ecosystem for Saudi Arabia and for the region as a whole.

Abdulla Al-Moayed, Head of Tarabut

“This allows for the development of innovative financial services and products that can cater to a wider range of customer needs. By opening access to financial data, these APIs are fostering an environment of innovation, allowing fintech startups to focus on end-user problems; away from the worries of connectivity and access to data,” he added. 

Being one of the region’s leading providers of APIs, Tarabut has set a prime example for others to follow. 

“Our mission is to enable the connections necessary to expand financial inclusion for everyone, by building the infrastructure that enables secure, seamless, and inexpensive financial services and advice. As with all financial and personal data, we should be clear that trust, security, and safety are a non-negotiable part of the process,” Al-Moayed stated. 

Regarding security, the CEO highlighted: “At Tarabut, we take a series of continuous steps to ensure security, such as ensuring that all transactions and data access requests are authenticated using multiple factors to enhance security, as well as the requirements to also employ state-of-the-art encryption standards to protect data during transmission and storage.” 

He further explained: “Data access controls, such as implementing strict controls on who can access specific data and for what purpose, ensure that customer data is not misused.” 

Al-Moayed adde: “There are also continuous and regular compliance checks and audits to ensure that all participants in the open banking ecosystem adhere to the highest security standards and regulatory requirements.” 

He also underscored the collaborative effort with SAMA during the regulatory sandbox period, which showcased the potential of open banking to transform financial accessibility.

Fostering symbiotic relationships 

“Looking at Saudi Arabia, we see a nationwide ambition to promote a symbiotic relationship between banks and fintechs, by enabling data sharing and the adoption of innovative technology solutions,” Al-Moayed said. 

“Banks provide fintech companies with access to valuable financial data with customer consent, and the fintechs and the banks can work together to create more personalized and innovative financial products,” he added.    

Al-Moayed explained that banks looking to partner with a fintech company could lead to new revenue streams and open up customer segments, enhancing their market reach and product offerings — as well as ensuring adaptability and innovation for the young, digitally-native population
of the Kingdom.  

“Together, banks and fintech can reach underserved segments of the population, as well as those who could benefit from improved awareness and access to different services, providing each with the many benefits and impacts that are inaccessible by traditional means,” he said.

Safeguarding consumer data 

According to Al-Moayed, SAMA has established a robust legal framework essential for safeguarding consumer data, which mandates explicit consent before sharing financial information with third-party providers. 

“SAMA have rightfully identified consumer data protection and privacy as crucial for consumer trust and participation,” stated Al-Moayed.  

He elaborated that this approach not only provides consumers control over their personal information but also “gives consumers control over their data, including the right to know how their information is being used and the ability to revoke access at any time, builds trust and encourages participation in the open banking ecosystem,” which is vital for building trust within the banking sector. 

“We believe this is a critical part of the trust-building process for banking customers across Saudi Arabia. By making it clear to people that every person is the true owner of their data, they can feel empowered to make the best access decisions for their personal needs,” he added.

A smooth transition 

As the Kingdom transitions toward open banking, traditional banks are seizing the opportunity to redefine their roles.  

“We have been hugely impressed by the vision and appetite for transformation from banks across the Kingdom,” Al-Moayed expressed.  

He explained that financial institutes are transitioning from being mere custodians of customer funds to becoming more integral participants in their customers’ financial lives. 

“The banks we partner with truly see open banking as so much more than a new series of regulations to comply with,” he said. 

“Recognizing the value of innovation brought by fintech startups, like ours, many banks are forming partnerships and collaborations to leverage the best available technology to enhance their offerings,” Al-Moayed added. 

MoneyHash’s Abdelrazik stated that traditional banking will continue to thrive and be active, at least in the short term.  

“But with the rise of open banking and numerous opportunities in the fintech sphere, banks implementing a robust digital strategy, and leveraging strategic alliances with fintechs, can be much more competitive and agile to this dynamic market,” he added.


Moody’s affirms Kingdom’s A1 credit rating with positive outlook

Updated 25 May 2024
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Moody’s affirms Kingdom’s A1 credit rating with positive outlook

  • The rating affirmation is based on Moody’s assessment of the government’s significant progress
  • It is also based on the track record of macroeconomic and fiscal policy effectiveness

RIYADH: Moody’s, the global credit rating agency, has affirmed Saudi Arabia’s credit rating at ‘A1’ with positive outlook, reported the Saudi Press Agency on Saturday.
The rating affirmation is based on Moody’s assessment of the government’s significant progress achieved in implementing broad-based reform agenda since 2016.
It is also based on the track record of macroeconomic and fiscal policy effectiveness that will support the sustainability of the economic diversification.
Furthermore, Moody’s expects the continued implementation of large diversification projects in Saudi Arabia will support nonhydrocarbon real GDP growth as they are designed to be modular and commercialized in phases.
The international credit rating agency further mentioned that the positive outlook is a reflection of the reforms and investments in various nonoil sectors that will, over time, lead to a material decline in the Kingdom’s economic and fiscal reliance on hydrocarbons.
Moreover, the agency touched on the country’s large economy, improving institutions and policy effectiveness, robust balance sheet and large foreign currency buffers.


Point-of-sale spending in Saudi Arabia hits record $16bn, SAMA reveals

Updated 24 May 2024
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Point-of-sale spending in Saudi Arabia hits record $16bn, SAMA reveals

RIYADH: Food and beverages transactions helped drive point-of-sale payments in Saudi Arabia to a record SR59.68 billion ($15.91 billion) in March, official data has revealed.

Figures released by the Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, show an 8 percent annual increase in spending across all sectors, with outlays during the holy month of Ramadan likely responsible for driving the uptick, alongside an expanding market with flexible payment options.

Spending on food and beverages in March made up the largest portion, accounting for 17 percent of total payments for the month. 

Expenditures on restaurants and cafes, along with miscellaneous goods and services, each represented 12 percent of overall spending.

In February, Redseer Strategy Consultants predicted a heightened eagerness among consumers in Saudi Arabia to explore new attractions and destinations during Ramadan.

Their survey, probing changes in shopping behavior for Ramadan 2024 compared to the previous year, revealed that 62 percent of Saudi respondents planned to increase their spending, surpassing the 48 percent of respondents from the UAE.

The report highlighted that this surge is driven by factors related to platforms and experiences, particularly flexible payment options and the launch of exclusive products of high quality.

The research showed that in the UAE, where the market has matured, consumers are placing a growing emphasis on affordability, prioritizing products with the lowest prices.

Factors such as product variety, fast delivery, and quality no longer serve as significant brand differentiators, as the market has leveled the playing field.

Conversely, in Saudi Arabia, a market experiencing growth, there is a notable focus on platform and experience-related aspects. Flexible payment options and strong customer support are becoming increasingly important, indicating a shift in consumer preferences.

According to data from SAMA, the primary drivers of growth during this period were increased spending on miscellaneous goods and services, which include personal care supplies and cleaning products.

This category represented the second-highest share of March spending at 12 percent, having grown by 28 percent to reach SR7.06 billion. This growth accounted for 36 percent of the overall annual increase in POS spending.

The second-highest contributor to the rise is clothing and footwear, with an increase that contributed 26 percent to the overall growth, reaching SR5.8 billion in March. This was followed by food and beverages, contributing 13 percent, with spending reaching around SR10 billion, marking a 6 percent increase from the same month last year.

Research from Redseer indicated a strong inclination among Saudi respondents towards purchasing groceries, fashion, and beauty or personal care products during the month of Ramadan.

According to the survey, 93 percent of respondents were open to buying groceries, 84 percent to buying fashion, and 72 percent to buying beauty and personal care products.

This period is often associated with heightened social engagements, hospitality, and generosity, leading to increased consumer spending on food, gifts, and charitable donations. Additionally, businesses often offer special promotions and discounts during Ramadan, further stimulating consumer spending.

In Saudi Arabia, there has been a notable shift towards online payments and digitalization, driven by the country’s commitment to providing cutting-edge technologies for its tech-savvy population.

With the rise of e-commerce accessibility and the increasing convenience of online shopping platforms, consumers are opting for digital transactions more than ever before. This trend is not only reshaping the retail landscape but also significantly impacting consumer behavior.

The ease of comparing prices and product options online has empowered consumers, fostering increased competition among retailers and ultimately driving down expenses.

As a result, the adoption of digital payment methods continues to grow rapidly, reflecting a fundamental shift in how transactions are conducted in Saudi Arabia’s dynamic and rapidly evolving marketplace.

One challenge that arises with this growth is the proliferation of fraudulent sites and platforms attempting to deceive interested users. During Ramadan and Eid Fitr, the increase in retail and online transactions provides more opportunities for cybercriminals.

These fraudulent entities have targeted major Saudi platforms by creating fake websites designed to intercept two-factor authentication or one-time passcode codes.

According to Cyber Security News, this sophisticated phishing tactic aims to bypass security measures and gain unauthorized access to victims’ accounts.

Consumers are therefore strongly advised to avoid sharing personal and payment information on questionable sites or with individuals posing as bank or government employees.

Reporting suspicious resources to local law enforcement and designated contacts within these organizations is crucial in helping to mitigate potential fraud risks.