The Weekly Circuit
👋 Good Monday morning in the Middle East!
Amid the buzz over World Cup soccer in Qatar and Formula 1 racing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, investors have been shuttling over the past week between a crowded series of international conferences. From the massive COP27 climate change meeting in Egypt and the Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit in the United Arab Emirates to CybertechNYC in downtown Manhattan, business leaders and policymakers were on a whirlwind ride.
Headlining the Milken event was Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, who discussed his decision to back out of a deal to bail out the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX and his rival, CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Also speaking at the three-day conference were former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Khaldoon Al Mubarak, managing director of Abu Dhabi’s $260 billion Mubadala sovereign wealth fund; Samer Haj-Yehia, chairman of Israel’s Bank Leumi; and Jon Medved, CEO of Jerusalem-based venture capital platform OurCrowd.
While in the UAE, Medved announced a joint venture to build an artificial-intelligence business based in the Gulf, saying OurCrowd and the government-owned Abu Dhabi Investment Office would put $60 million into the new firm, which will assist companies to integrate AI technology.
The New York conference featured a panel of government cybersecurity watchdogs from the U.S., Israel and the UAE, Jewish Insider’s Tori Bergel reports. “We all have critical infrastructure to defend, and it’s just a proven point at this point that cybersecurity is an international issue,” Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Robert Silvers said. “These threats know no boundaries.”
Gulf-Israel cooperation is also developing in health care. The Circuit reports this week on a technology partnership between Bahrain’s King Hamad American Mission Hospital and Israel’s Sheba Medical Center that ranges from digital management of health records to using virtual reality for pain management.
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Digital medicine connects hospitals in Bahrain, UAE and Israel
When Bahrain’s King Hamad American Mission Hospital opens a new $66 million building in January, it will treat patients using advanced medical capabilities that are based on artificial intelligence, virtual reality and digital health care management, Brian Blum reports for The Circuit.
Abraham Accords: Much of the technology employed at the tiny Gulf kingdom’s oldest hospital will come from a partnership with Israel’s Sheba Medical Center that would have been impossible two years ago, before the two countries established diplomatic ties through the Abraham Accords. Sheba’s doctors, managers and homegrown startup companies will help the private, nonprofit hospital offer breakthrough techniques in surgery and rehabilitation while treating a wider circle of patients through telemedicine.
Medical gateway: “Health care unites us across social and political divides,” Dr. George Cheriyan, CEO of the Bahraini hospital known as AMH, said in an interview with The Circuit. “The Abraham Accords have opened the doors to allow people from both nations to mix freely, with health care as the gateway.”
Healthcare startups: Central to the relationship will be Sheba’s ARC Center for Digital Innovation and Triventures, a $200 million Israeli-American venture capital firm that established a seed fund to nurture med-tech startups within Sheba, Israel’s biggest hospital. The new 125-bed medical center in Bahrain, a few miles south of the capital city of Manama, is scheduled to open in 2023, 120 years after the hospital was founded by Christian missionaries from the United States.The five-story building will become AMH’s flagship, with four satellite facilities across the island country, which is off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia and connected by a causeway.
Global partnerships: Sheba’s ARC program – which stands for Accelerate, Redesign and Collaborate – has developed partnerships for applying new medical technologies at hospitals in Chicago, Houston and Ottawa, Canada. It is also working with Bahrain’s biggest public hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex. In the United Arab Emirates, Sheba physicians have started offering remote consultations over Zoom to 350 diabetes patients from the Gulf state’s military, police and firefighting services. Sheba will also help train obstetrics and gynecology personnel at Dubai’s Medcare Women and Children Hospital.
No secrets: Health care can be used “as a pathway to flourish and succeed in the region,” Yoel Har-Even, director of Sheba Global, the hospital’s international business division, told The Circuit. “There are no secrets when you’re dealing with medicine and health care. This is not about missiles or nuclear. We’re talking about the human body and the diseases mankind is suffering from.”
Inside Israel’s diplomatic mission at the World Cup in Qatar
As thousands of Israeli soccer fans pour into Qatar this month for the World Cup tournament, Israel faces a complicated and delicate diplomatic task to secure its citizens’ well-being in a country with which Jerusalem has no formal diplomatic relations or presence, Jewish Insider’s Ruth Eglash reports.
Avoid friction: Ahead of Sunday’s opening match in which Ecuador beat Qatar 2-0, a team of Israeli officials arrived last week in the Gulf state, setting up a special mission for the duration of the tournament that will cater to any emergencies or needs that might arise among Israeli nationals who are there. In addition, Israel’s National Public Diplomacy Directorate, together with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Sports, the Israeli Football Association and the Israel Airports Authority, launched an awareness campaign urging Israeli visitors to the conservative Muslim nation to behave in accordance with local rules and, specifically, to avoid friction with other fans.
Alcohol & drugs: Speaking from Doha, Alon Lavi, spokesperson for the temporary Israeli mission set up in the Qatari capital to assist citizens, said that the delegation’s most obvious concerns were relating to the use of alcohol and drugs, which are “strictly forbidden here.” But, he added, that visiting Israelis needed to be conscious of teams and fans from other nations — particularly those from countries considered enemy states — and abide by the rules of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), soccer’s international governing body. One of those restrictions is on the waving of flags of countries not competing in the games — Israel has no team in the tournament.
Qatar’s different: In a video put out by the Israeli government on Wednesday, celebrated soccer player Tal Ben Haim warns Israeli fans to act in accordance with local customs while in Qatar. “Going to the World Cup? From my personal experience, seeing the world’s biggest player is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but in Qatar the rules are different, so behave appropriately,” warns Ben Haim, who has played for several international teams.
Consular Services: Lavi estimated that as many as 10,000 Israelis are expected to arrive in Qatar for the games, with nearly a dozen Israeli diplomats on hand to provide them with consular services, including replacing lost or stolen passports, catering to medical emergencies or dealing any criminal incidents. The first-ever direct flight between Tel Aviv and Doha took off on Sunday.
Passing Through: Emirates airline passengers who are not citizens of the UAE will be allowed to register to pass customs in Dubai using speedy biometric technology.
No Vacancy: Premium office space in Riyadh is 98% full as companies doing business in Saudi Arabia are being pressed to shift their regional headquarters to the kingdom.
Car Data: Israel’s Otonomo Technologies, which collects data from network-connected cars, is in talks with its U.K. rival Wejo Group about a possible merger.
Bye-Bye Bank: HSBC Bank Oman is merging with rival Sohar International Bank and will cease to exist as a legal entity. HSBC has been in Oman since 1948.
Crypto Connection: The Abu Dhabi Global Market launched Abu Dhabi Crypto Hub, an interactive platform that connects with the financial center’s virtual asset firms.
Cider Deal: Palo Alto Networks will acquire Israeli startup Cider Security, a maker of application security operating systems, in a deal worth $300 million in cash and stock.
Zapping Waste: Clarifruit, an Israeli company whose software aims to reduce waste in fruit and vegetable supply chains, raised $12 million in a funding round led by Champel Capital and Firstime Ventures.
No Commission: Baraka, a Dubai-based zero-commission investment platform, raised $20 million in a funding round led by Valar Ventures, a VC backed by American billionaire Peter Thiel.
AI Platform: Israel’s Weka, which provides a data platform for artificial intelligence and high-performance computers, raised $135 million in a funding round led by Generation Investment Management.
Keeping Secrets: Akeyless, an Israeli maker of software to guard secret information, raised $65 million in a funding round led by NGP Capital.
On the Circuit
Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, soccer’s international ruling body, vented his anger at a press conference with a one-hour rebuttal to critics who say the World Cup should not be held in Qatar, given its poor human rights record.
Former President Donald Trump’s company licensed the family name for use by Saudi property developer Dal Al Arkan on a $1.6 billion golf course and housing project in Oman’s capital of Muscat.
U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken lands in Qatar on Monday to support Team USA in its first World Cup match against Wales and to participate in the annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue.
Ahead on the Circuit
Nov. 21-22, Dubai: Alternative Investment Management Summit. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers leads roster at conference focusing on hedge funds, private equity, digital assets and other investment vehicles. Jumeirah Estates Towers, DIFC.
Nov. 27, Tel Aviv: Tmura Fund 20th Anniversary Party, celebrating more than 100 million shekels ($29 million) raised for charity by Israel startups. DNA, Azrieli Center.
Nov. 29, Tel Aviv: Made for Trade Live. The Dubai Multi Commodities Center holds seminar on how to set up and expand Israeli businesses in the UAE’s biggest free-trade zone. Tel Aviv Stock Exchange building.
Dec. 5-6, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: World Fintech Show. Conference brings together investors, policymakers, entrepreneurs to discuss technology used by the financial services industry. Intercontinental Riyadh Hotel.
Motor Champ: Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen cruised to victory at Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leading for the Red Bull team from start to finish for a record-extending 15th race win of the season. The battle for second place ended with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc edging out Red Bull’s Sergio Perez by just 1.3 seconds. The motor race is one of the premier events of Abu Dhabi’s social season, packed with concerts, parties and celebrities alongside the auto circuit on the emirate’s Yas Island.
Warhol of Arabia: Some of Andy Warhol’s most famous artworks will be on display in Saudi Arabia at a show in the ancient desert city of AlUla. The exhibition at the mirror-surfaced Maraya cultural center runs from Feb. 17 to May 16. Among the works featured will be Warhol’s paintings and prints of Elizabeth Taylor, Muhammad Ali and Dolly Parton, alongside filmed portraits of 1960s counterculture figures.
Board Games: Jerusalem plays host this week to the World Team Chess Championship, featuring 19-year-old Hans Niemann in his first appearance since suing world champion Magnus Carlsen last month for $100 million over a high-profile cheating scandal. Israel is among the 12 top men’s teams vying for the title in the weeklong competition. Russia was banned from the tournament in protest of its invasion of Ukraine.