The Weekly Circuit
👋 Good Monday morning in the Middle East!
Add Bill Gates to the voices urging broad participation by the world’s biggest oil and gas producers at the COP28 climate summit taking place in the United Arab Emirates later this year. Speaking remotely by video to the UAE Climate Tech conference last week in Abu Dhabi, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist said corporate involvement is critical to stop global warming. “We need those that are most responsible for producing and using fossil fuels to step up and make serious commitments for a clean energy future,” Gates said.
Those energy companies should be given incentives to invest in technologies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of the COP28 summit, told the Abu Dhabi conference. “With the right policies stimulating the right investments, climate technologies could at least double their contribution to global growth,” said Jaber, who is CEO of the state-owned oil company Adnoc and a UAE cabinet minister.
Turkey is heading to runoff elections after neither President Recip Tayyip Erdogan nor his closest challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, reached the threshold of 50% in Sunday’s vote. The next round would take place in two weeks.
Israel and the Islamic Jihad agreed to an Egyptian-backed cease-fire after five days of deadly conflict in the Gaza Strip in which the Iranian-backed Palestinian group fired more than 1,200 missiles, rockets and mortars at Israel. In addition to its Iron Dome missile shield, Israel for the first time shot down a missile launched from Gaza with the David’s Sling system, which is designed to intercept intermediate-range missiles. It was jointly developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and U.S. defense contractor Raytheon Technologies.
Saudi Arabia and Syria are both resuming work at their diplomatic missions to each other’s countries. The renewal of activity comes more than a decade after the kingdom broke off relations over the Syrian civil war and days after Syria was readmitted into the Arab League.
Standard & Poor’s left Israel’s credit rating unchanged, accepting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that he will reach a compromise with opposition lawmakers on his government’s controversial judicial overhaul proposal. Concern that changes to the court system would damage faith in the economy led Moody’s to downgrade Israel’s credit outlook from positive to stable last month, citing a “deterioration of governance.”
Senior health care executives from the UAE and Morocco are scheduled to appear at the Biomed Israel International Life Science and HealthTech Conference this week in Tel Aviv. Organizers say they’re hoping that the three-day networking event will lead to more joint ventures between Israel and the Arab countries that signed the Abraham Accords in 2020.
Saudi Arabia is weighing the possibility of producing an English-language television news channel to rival Qatar’s Al Jazeera. In an effort to expand the kingdom’s international media influence, the state-backed Saudi Research and Media Group has talked to consulting firms about conducting feasibility studies for the project, according to the Financial Times.
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Abu Dhabi grad school aims to help bridge AI programmer gap
When OurCrowd put down roots in the United Arab Emirates and built a startup focused on making sense of financial data, the Israeli venture capital platform found two of its first programmers at the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger reports. The computer science graduate school was established in 2019 as part of the UAE’s push to become a Middle East spawning ground for technology businesses.
Greater demand: Now, Jerusalem-based OurCrowd, which established a subsidiary in Abu Dhabi two years ago, sees the university as a source of high-value programming talent for young tech companies in its investment portfolio that are looking to operate in the Gulf. “Within Israel, there’s a huge supply of engineers and scientists and programmers, but the demand for them is even greater,” Sabah al-Binali, executive chairman of OurCrowd Arabia, told The Circuit. In Abu Dhabi, he said, “we can get top people from around the world.”
Startup jobs: To anchor the relationship, OurCrowd signed a memorandum of understanding with the university last week designed to help attract AI companies to Abu Dhabi and channel graduates into jobs at some of the startups financed by the crowdfunding firm. The agreement will help OurCrowd demonstrate its value in the oil-rich Gulf state, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 under the Abraham Accords, al-Binali said.
Tech accelerator: The MOU calls for OurCrowd and the university, known as MBZUAI, to establish an AI-focused venture capital investment fund with the goal of attracting both international and domestic AI companies to use the campus as a technology accelerator for scaling up in size. Students from MBZUAI would be guided to internships and job opportunities at companies funded by OurCrowd that operate in the UAE, Israel and around the world.
Government partnerships: It also establishes a strategic relationship between MBZUAI and Integrated Data Intelligence, OurCrowd’s fintech subsidiary in Abu Dhabi, to collaborate on research projects in applying AI technologies to a widening range of industries. In addition, partnerships are envisioned with government entities and related businesses.
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Free Zone: The UAE’s Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone is planning to expand to 10 times its size and become one of the biggest financial districts in the world. The Abu Dhabi Investment Office said it expects to open new international branches, having set up operations so far in the U.S., France, Germany, the U.K., China, South Korea and Israel.
U.S. Posture: The U.S. military will bolster its “defensive posture” in the Gulf following Iran’s recent harassment of commercial shipping vessels in recent months.
Shorting America: Royal Group, an investment firm chaired by UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has taken a short position worth billions of dollars in U.S. stocks, betting that recession fears will pressure markets, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Safety Protocols: Qatar-based Stadium LLC will train thousands of Saudis in management and safety protocols used during the World Cup for events in the kingdom.
Bonjour Tel Aviv: French retail giant Carrefour opened 50 supermarkets across Israel and launched an online store, challenging domestic chains with cheaper prices.
Mobile Boarding: Emirates airline is trying to eliminate paper boarding passes and will ask passengers to use QR coded passes sent to their mobile phones instead.
No Swearing: The UAE warned it will police social media behavior, introducing jail terms and fines of up to $136,000 for online swearing, slander and threats.
Shipping Shares: The UAE’s national oil company Adnoc plans to sell a 15% stake in its logistics and shipping unit through an IPO on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Softbank Fortress: Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala sovereign wealth fund is closing in on a $3 billion deal to buy Fortress Investment Group, which is owned by Japan’s Softbank.
Egyptian IPO: Egypt sold a 9.5% stake in state-run Telecom Egypt Co., raising more than 3.7 billion Egyptian pounds ($121 million) and trying to demonstrate that it’s serious about addressing the worst economic crisis in years. The government is also cutting food subsidies and letting prices rise on staples such as cooking oil and sugar.
Roller Coaster: Paris-based PAI Partners bought The Looping Group, an operator of European amusement parks, from Mubadala Capital and Bpifrance.
Chinese Partners: Dubai’s Mensha Ventures signed a sustainable energy deal with Asia Development & Investment Bank and other Chinese companies to invest $1 billion in GCC countries.
Cultivating Startups: Israel’s AnD Ventures closed its first fund with $70 million invested in 11 companies. The firm was featured in The Circuit last July.
Standing Tall: Al Habtoor Group plans to build one of the world’s tallest residential towers, rising 81 stories above the Dubai Water Canal with 1,701 apartments.
Singapore’s Hub: Singapore’s DBS Bank, one of Asia’s largest lenders, will expand operations in Dubai as a hub in the MENA region, CEO Piyush Gupta said.
Moroccan Clinics: Moroccan medical clinic operator Oncorad plans an IPO within three years to fund regional expansion after raising $45.5 million in private equity funds.
Qatar Cleantech: Qatar is planning to invest $75 billion in clean energy projects, including solar power, hydrogen production and the world’s biggest blue ammonia plant.
On the Circuit
Hend Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to France, is among a cohort of female diplomats from Gulf countries profiled in Vogue Arabia. Others include Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the U.S.; Al Zain Al Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S.; and Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s representative to the United Nations.
Larry Fink, chairman and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with extensive investments across the Middle East, told the Wall Street Journal he is training five possible successors and, at 70, has no immediate plans to retire.
Fahad Al-Deweesh is the likely pick for CEO of Citigroup’s investment banking unit in Saudi Arabia, Bloomberg reported. He previously led investment banking at JPMorgan.
Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, told the Dubai FinTech Summit he is optimistic about Gulf economic growth, noting, “We only see inflows into this region.”
Hatem Dowidar, CEO of the UAE’s Emirates Telecommunications Group, known as e&, will join the board of London-based Vodafone, where e& is the biggest shareholder.
Mohammed Alyahya stepped down as editor in chief of Al-Arabiya English. He is a senior fellow in the Belfer Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Ahead on the Circuit
May 15-16, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Mobility Live Middle East 2023. Conference brings together investors, corporate executives, policymakers to discuss the future of transportation. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
May 16-18, Tel Aviv, Israel: Biomed Israel International Life Science and HealthTech Conference. Health care companies, investors, government officials gather for three-day symposium. David InterContinental Hotel.
May 21-22, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Forbes Middle East Women’s Summit 2023. Top female business, cultural and government leaders gather in the Saudi capital. Riyadh Fairmont Hotel.
May 23-24, Dubai, UAE: Seamless Middle East 2023. Conference explores the future of digital commerce. Dubai World Trade Center.
May 23-25, Doha, Qatar: Qatar Economic Forum. Qatari financial leaders, international investors and corporate executives meet to discuss global financial challenges in conference co-sponsored with Bloomberg.
May 29-31, Tokyo: Israel-Japan Innovation and Technology Conference. Calcalist newspaper and Israel Discount Bank holds three-day conference pairing Israeli and Japanese investors and business executives. Toranomon Hills Forum.
May 31-June 1, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Make it in the Emirates Forum. Annual manufacturing conference sponsored by the UAE Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology. Abu Dhabi Energy Centre.
June 17-18, Tel Aviv, Israel: Fintech Junction. Conference brings together investors, bankers, regulators and tech company executives. Hilton Tel Aviv.
Revolutionary Rap: Broadway’s award-winning musical “Hamilton,” which mixes rap, hip-hop and jazz to tell the story of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, is coming to the UAE next year, opening Jan. 17, 2024 for a three-week run at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena.
Soccer Bid: Gary Neville, the U.K. soccer commentator, former player and coach, reflects in an interview with the Financial Times on the large investment Abu Dhabi has made in the Manchester City team and how much more Qatar might spend if it wins the bidding for Manchester United.
Goodbye Boys: Israeli authorities canceled a concert by the Backstreet Boys that was scheduled for last week in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, citing the threat of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. Concert promoters for the ’90s boy band said they will try to reschedule at a time when there is no military conflict. The decision came a day after 40,000 Israelis turned out in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park for a concert by local rock star Aviv Geffen. Explosions from anti-missile rockets were visible in the sky during the performance.
Thrills and Chills: A Saudi state company signed an agreement with Hasbro to open a “Transformers” theme park modeled on the toy robots featured in sci-fi action movies.