The Weekly Circuit
👋 Hello from the Middle East!
Checkbooks are out as the blockbuster Dubai Airshow is underway this week. One of the world’s biggest events on the aviation calendar, the biennial Dubai exhibition has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a smaller trade show in 1989 with 200 exhibitors and 25 aircraft. This 18th edition has seen over 100,000 attendees flock to a purpose-built site on the outskirts of Dubai with two more days to go.
The Dubai government is planning to sell a 25% stake in Dubai Taxi Co. as it revives a privatization push first announced two years ago. The sale on the local exchange, set to be priced on Nov. 21, could raise up to $300 million, Bloomberg reports. The overall outlook for public markets in the Gulf is largely optimistic, according to a recent report from EY, citing a large pipeline of planned IPOs – particularly on the Saudi Tadawul exchange – going into 2024. However, the audit firm noted a risk of ongoing geopolitical challenges, which are “adversely [impacting] investor sentiment.”
Saudi Arabia’s supercomputer Shaheen III was named the fastest in the Middle East by TOP500, a German group that tracks the computing power of systems worldwide. Developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Shaheen III is housed at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Its processing power exceeds that of 500,000 latest-generation MacBook Pros operating simultaneously. According to Tony Chan, president of KAUST, the plan is to use the supercomputer to support the university’s research in areas like alternative fuels and carbon sequestration.
Family investment offices will be a prominent feature during Abu Dhabi Finance Week at the end of this month. More than 300 leaders of the industry and government officials from 17 countries are expected to participate in the Nov. 28 inaugural International Family Office Congress, according to a statement. Some 80% of the UAE’s private sector are family businesses and the global family office industry is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, the conference organizers said.
Masdar, the UAE’s sustainable energy company, is considering acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe while looking for prospective partners in China. COO Abdulaziz Alobaidli discussed the company’s expansion plans with The National and said the changes would be “transformative.” In advance of hosting the U.N.’s COP28 environmental conference in two weeks, the UAE government publicized a set of principles on the “minimum standards for the management of climate-related financial risks for all financial sector entities” operating in the country.
Welcome to The Weekly Circuit. Read on for the stories, deals and players driving the news across the MENA business landscape. Please send comments and story tips to [email protected].
UAE stages aviation extravaganza, overcoming rivals and regional tension
Dubai’s aviation industry shrugged off new regional rivals and emerging security concerns in the Middle East to stage this week’s event. Organizers tallied more than $50 billion in new aircraft orders from Boeing, Dubai raised its forecast for traffic through its world-leading airport and IPO prospects for flag carrier Emirates generated substantial buzz, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
Big numbers: Dubai Airports announced it is expecting record-breaking numbers to continue in the fourth quarter and into 2024 with annual passenger traffic at Dubai International (DXB) reaching reach 86.8 million – surpassing 2019. “We’re thrilled but not entirely surprised that DXB is all set to surpass the pre-pandemic milestone well ahead of our initial projections by almost a year,” Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, said in a statement.
Top traffic: India was DXB’s top country destination in terms of traffic volume with 8.9 million passengers in the first nine months of the year, followed by Saudi Arabia with 4.8 million passengers and the UK with 4.4 million.
Mega-deals: Shares of Boeing popped on the New York Stock Exchange, up 4% on Monday, and have stayed buoyant as government-owned Emirates and sister airline flydubai secured 125 Boeing wide-body jets at the opening of the airshow, leading a week of mega-deals in commercial and defense aviation that typically sees the biggest agreements inked in the first two days.
Public Investment Fund: The PGA Tour said it will offer pro golfers direct ownership in an entity being formed through its pending combination with Saudi Arabia’s PIF and the DP World Tour, Bloomberg reports, citing a memo sent to players by PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan. The fund announced on Monday that it has acquired a 25% stake in Alkhorayef Petroleum, a Saudi maker of oil and gas systems.
ADQ: Power Corp. of Canada, the holding company of Canada’s billionaire Desmarais family, increased the estimated value of its Sagard alternative investments unit after closing a deal to sell a minority stake in it to ADQ and the Bank of Montreal, Bloomberg reports. Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) reported a 30% slump in third-quarter net profit year-on-year to $424.72 million on lower income from its oil and gas segment. The Abu Dhabi-listed company, majority owned by the emirate’s strategic investment vehicle ADQ, said it plans to triple its renewable energy capacity through the end of the decade, with around 65% of its generation capacity coming from renewable power sources, according to a company statement on Monday.
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority: ADIA boosted its investments in Chinese companies by 30% in the third quarter to $1.3 billion, China Money Network reports.
Mubadala: Indonesia’s PT Pertamina Geothermal Energy agreed to cooperate with Chevron New Energies International and Mubadala Energy on a joint study of the geothermal potential in Kotamobagu, a site in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi. Airbus and Mubadala Investment Company signed an agreement to offer internships for Emirati engineering students at the European aircraft-maker’s headquarters in Toulouse, France.
💻 Supercomputer Partners: G42, Abu Dhabi’s technology holding group, and Cerebras System, a California-based artificial intelligence startup, completed the first stage in a joint project to build nine interconnected supercomputers.
🇪🇬 Offshore Restart: Flow of natural gas to Egypt from Israel’s Tamar offshore field is expected next week to reach levels from before the Gaza war amid reduced security concerns, Bloomberg reports.
🛢️Carbon Trade: The UAE, one of the world’s leading oil exporters, is facing criticism for attempting to position itself as a leader in the global market for trading carbon credits, as it prepares to host the COP28 climate talks, the Wall Street Journal reports.
🚀 Space School: The UAE is launching a space academy to give Emiratis skills such as designing spacecraft and planning interplanetary missions, Sarah Al Amiri, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, told The National.
🛫 Return Flight: Serbia will buy back the remainder of the minority stake in Air Serbia that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways bought 10 years ago when the carrier needed cash.
☁️ Custom Cloud: Microsoft created a regional version of its Azure cloud for Israel, enabling government agencies, businesses and others to access advanced applications and databases.
🚢 Cargo Jam: DP World Australia says it is back online following a cyber attack that left tens of thousands of shipping containers stranded outside ports.
🏝️ Island Showroom: EDGE Group, a UAE defense conglomerate, set up an island off Abu Dhabi as a military testing site to demonstrate products for international clients.
💱 Gaza Crypto: Digital wallets maintained by small cash exchange shops in the Gaza Strip were a key element in Iran’s transfer of money through cryptocurrencies to Hamas, the Wall Street Journal reports.
⚽ New Pitch: Italian soccer team AC Milan, which is planning to expand its activities in the Middle East opened an office in Dubai, home to major sponsor Emirates.
✨ All That Glitters: Russian gold trading, which shifted to Dubai from London because of sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine, is now concentrated in Hong Kong, where volume has quadrupled this year to 68 million tons, Bloomberg reports.
🚗 Egypt Investment: Qatar’s Al-Mana Group plans to invest more than $60 million in Egypt next year, largely on building a car assembly plant, Asharq Business reports.
⚡ High Voltage: Scotland will pay about $11 million to bring electricity generated by solar and wind plants in Morocco through an undersea pipeline to power a repurposed nuclear plant producing high-voltage cables.
💽 Crypto License: A subsidiary of Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com obtained a license from Dubai regulators to offer virtual asset services.
🇧🇷 Petro Tango: Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) has offered $2.1 billion to buy a minority stake in Brazil’s Braskem NA, the largest maker of petrochemicals in Latin America.
🚀 Mystery Deal: Azerbaijan was the unidentified buyer of Israel’s Barak MX missile system, which Israel Aerospace Industries said last week it had sold to an unnamed country for $1.2 billion, Globes reports.
🍁 Northern Exposure: Toronto-based Raiven Capital launched a second venture capital fund in Dubai to connect startups between Canada and the UAE.
🚀 Missile Intercept: Finland signed a $1.3 billion deal with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to buy its David’s Sling system, designed to intercept medium- and long-range rockets, including cruise missiles.
💅🏽 Cleaning Up: Omorfia Group, a subsidiary of International Holding Co.’s Multiply Group, acquired UAE beauty chain The Juice Spa and Salon for an undisclosed sum.
🚚 Running on Empty: CloudFret, a Moroccan startup that finds cargo for delivery trucks that otherwise travel empty on return trips, raised $2.1 million in a funding round led by AfriMobility and Azur Innovation.
💰 Drilling Startups: Abu Dhabi-based Adnoc Drilling Co. and Alpha Dhabi Holding are forming a joint venture to invest as much as $1.5 billion in energy-related technology companies.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met on Saturday with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the joint Arab-Islamic summit. The Crown Prince also separately met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, toured the Dubai Airshow on Monday with his sons, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Mohammed, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, First Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the UAE’s minister of finance.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will probably not attend the COP28 climate conference in Dubai because of the Gaza war and the country’s delegation to the event will be substantially reduced, Calcalist reports.
Mohammed Hassan Al Suwaidi, the UAE’s investment minister, is quickly gaining recognition since his appointment in July as an influential force in the government, Intelligence Online reports.
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria called for more investment in his country from Saudi Arabia, speaking on a visit to Riyadh where he participated in a business forum and met with Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih.
Prince Badr Bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture, announced the establishment of the Riyadh-based International Center for Artificial Intelligence Research and Ethics, speaking to the Unesco General Conference in Paris on Saturday.
On the Circuit
David Cameron, the former British prime minister who taught politics this year at New York University Abu Dhabi, was appointed as the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary on Monday.
Sultan Al Jaber, president-designate of COP28 and ADNOC’S CEO, said after a meeting in Brussels of EU’s 27 foreign ministers that he welcomed its pledge for a “substantial” contribution to a climate damage fund for vulnerable nations. He added in a statement that it will make a difference for “billions of people, lives and livelihoods who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”
Emirates President Tim Clark said a “defective” Rolls Royce engine used in Airbus aircraft is preventing the airline from making an order, speaking at a media roundtable at the Dubai Airshow.
Peter Bellew, chief operating officer of Riyadh Air, told Arab News the new Saudi carrier will try to “put a little bit of the romance back into travel” when it starts commercial flights in 2025.
Katherine Maher, the new CEO of Web Summit, told the conference in Portugal this week she has high hopes for its spinoff this February in Qatar, saying African entrepreneurs who have had trouble obtaining visas to Europe should find it easier to attend.
Igal Shany joined Israel’s Viola Growth fund as a general partner, focusing on climate and digital health investments. He was previously CEO of Eitan Medical.
Mohamed Alabbar, founder and CEO of Emaar Properties, said redesigns are underway on real estate development near the Dubai Creek and its central tower is now unlikely to be the world’s tallest, speaking in an interview with Arabian Business.
🛏️ In Demand: Hotels on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island are boosting room prices by 800% for the Formula 1 Grand Prix on Nov. 26 and requiring a minimum three-night stay.
🇪🇬 Pyramid Power: Abu Dhabi Tourism Investment Co. plans to spend $161 million to renovate three Egyptian hotels, including one overlooking the Pyramids in Giza.
🍾 Drink Up: The new UAE liquor store Royal Spirit, backed by oil company D1 Global, plans to introduce a signature label for its own alcoholic beverages and a home delivery app.
⛵ Sailing Sensation: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM contracted with London-based Burgess Yachts for services aimed at making its Sindalah island a top yachting destination.
🥖 Upper Crust: London bakery Bread Ahead opened a branch in Riyadh, bringing its artisanal crusty loaves and pastries to the growing foodie ranks in the Saudi capital.
Ahead on the Circuit
Nov. 14-18, Sakhir, Bahrain: Jewellery Arabia. Largest annual gathering of sellers and customers in the Middle East. Exhibition World Bahrain.
Nov. 15-16, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Misk Global Forum. The biggest youth gathering in the region, hosted by the Mohammed Bin Salman Foundation, this year under the theme “The Big Now” to encourage young people to think ambitiously and act quickly. Bujairi Terrace.
Nov. 17-19, Manama, Bahrain: IISS Manama Dialogue. A forum for government ministers and policymakers, as well as the private sector, to debate the Middle East’s most pressing foreign policy, defense and security challenges. The Ritz-Carlton.
Nov. 22-26, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Abu Dhabi Art. The fair brings together a number of local and international galleries offering artworks for sale which are shown alongside exhibitions, artist commissions and installations both at the fair and across the emirate. Manarat Al Saadiyat.
Nov. 23, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Open Banking Conference. A gathering of regional banks and technology firms to further the Saudi Central Bank agenda for its Open Banking Program. Radisson Blu Hotel.
Nov. 27-28, Dubai, UAE: Dubai Future Forum. The forum brings together futurists, foresight practitioners and experts from academia and various industries as well as government to anticipate challenges, share foresight and shape the future. Museum of the Future.
Nov. 27-29, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Fortune Global Forum. A gathering of leaders from the world’s biggest multinational companies discussing the dynamic frontiers of global business. Location to be announced.
Nov. 30-Dec. 12, Dubai, UAE: COP28. United Nations climate change conference opens with a speech by King Charles III, drawing government leaders, environmental groups and energy companies from around the world. Expo City.