The Weekly Circuit
👋 Hello from the Middle East!
MBC, the No. 1 Middle East broadcaster, is headed for an IPO. The sale of a 10% stake in the Saudi company is planned to take place within the next six months, CEO Sam Barnett said in a statement on Tuesday. Riyadh-based MBC was founded in London in 1991 by Saudi businessman Walid Al Ibrahim, who sold a 60% stake five years ago to the kingdom’s Al Istedamah Holding Co.
British racing legend Lewis Hamilton will be absent from the Yas Marina Circuit as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix gets underway with practice sessions on Friday. Attendance at the season-ender has nearly tripled in the last decade, with organizers expecting over 150,000 racing fans to descend upon Yas Island over the coming three days of events.
F1 tickets provide entry into the post-race concerts which this year include Ava Max, Tiesto, Chris Brown, Shania Twain and the Foo Fighters. The Paddock Club — opposite the Main Grandstand — boasts a new podium that extends over the track, offering fans a closer look at the drivers at the end of the race. And proving that just about everything in the UAE is green-themed these days: Yas Marina Circuit is now getting nearly a third of its annual power needs from a solar grid located ahead of the track’s Turn 5.
The U.N. COP28 climate conference that kicks off in Dubai next week is trying to align virtually everything at the event with its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C – including lunch menus. For the 90 or so restaurants and vendors providing some 250,000 meals a day at the two-week conference, organizers are mandating food choices that are climate-conscious with minimal packaging that can be recycled. Among the choices open to the 130,000 participants and visitors expected at the event will be a food truck park that offers 100% vegan food.
Once chief regulator at Abu Dhabi Global Markets, Richard Teng is now CEO of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. Teng takes over after founder Changpeng Zhao stepped aside on Tuesday, pleading guilty to violating criminal anti-money-laundering rules in U.S. federal court. He agreed to pay a $50 million fine and may face a prison sentence, while Binance will pay $4.3 billion in fines and restitution.
From offices in Dubai and Singapore (Binance has always resisted a headquarters), Teng now has one of the most challenging jobs in crypto. The 53-year-old Singaporean has long worked on the regulatory side: first at the Monetary Authority of Singapore and at the city-state’s stock exchange SGX.
In recent years the UAE has aimed to be a leading digital assets hub and sought to develop regulation, even as countries like the U.S. and China have cracked down on cryptocurrency. In a LinkedIn post today, Teng said he would lean on his years of experience in financial services and regulation to reassure Binance’s 150 million users about its “strength, security and safety.”
To that end, the firm plans to follow through with its participation at Abu Dhabi Finance Week, set to start next Monday. Bader Kalooti, Binance’s head of growth and operations for the Middle East, will take the stage with The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner on Tuesday to field questions on the future of crypto in light of this week’s events.
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].
OSN+ merger with Anghami combines binging and streaming
Binge-watching and music streaming are coming togetherin a merger of Anghami Inc. and OSN+, the Arab world’s homegrown rivals to Spotify and Netflix. The combination will make it one of the biggest streaming platforms in the Middle East, bringing together movies, television, music and podcasts, Kelsey Warner reports for The Circuit.
Cash backing: The deal is backed by a planned $50 million cash investment in Anghami from OSN Group. The combined media entity will have some 120 million active users – with 2.5 million paying subscribers – and $100 million in revenue, according to a joint statement on Tuesday.
On top: “We won’t grow until we climb on top of each other,” Elie Habib, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, told The Circuit. The Lebanese start-up pioneer, who joined OSN’s board of directors a little more than a year ago, will become chief of the newly combined entity.
Kuwaiti owner: The deal is expected to close early next year subject to regulatory and antitrust approvals. OSN Group, which is majority owned by Kuwaiti conglomerate KIPCO, will continue to run its linear TV business OSNtv separately, headed by OSN Group CEO Joe Kawkabani.
Barbie and Succession: Kawkabani has made it his focus to bring Western content like HBO and Warner Bros. properties to the OSN streaming platform. Moves to bring And Just Like That – the Sex & the City reboot – Succession and the Barbie movie to MENA markets have been largely successful: OSN+ achieved a 40% year-on-year increase in user engagement.
Mubadala: Mubadala Investment Co. said it will be an anchor investor in the new Starz Orion Capital Fund, which will focus on real estate lending and investment opportunities across Europe, particularly for property refurbishment and acquiring distressed debt. Core42, a subsidiary of Mubadala-owned artificial intelligence firm G42, introduced a climate-focused version of its bilingual large language model Jais, which is available to the public from now to the end of the COP28 climate conference. The project was developed in partnership with Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi.
Public Investment Fund: U.K. soccer’s Premier League and the PIF “agreed to settle their differences” so that the $375 million acquisition of Newcastle United could go ahead, The Athletic reports, citing emails from a senior official in the Foreign Office. Premier League CEO Richard Masters previously said there was “no pressure applied” by the government during the process that ended with the team’s acquisition by the PIF.
The Strategic Development Fund: The investment arm of the UAE’s Tawazun Council, which makes acquisitions on behalf of the Ministry of Defense, has exited its partnership with Russian Helicopters to comply with international sanctions.
Gulf Investment Corporation: The Kuwait-based GIC, a $2.1 billion fund jointly owned by all six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council, said it has acquired a significant minority stake in Pipecare Group, a Swiss provider of pipeline inspection services.
🏭 Metal Maker: Emirates Global Aluminium, the UAE’s largest industrial company outside the oil and gas industry, has begun construction on the country’s largest aluminum recycling plant.
🇬🇧 English Hospitality: The U.K.’s national tourism agency is launching a campaign to woo high spenders from the Gulf under the slogan, “Come see things differently.”
💰 Investment Hub: The European Investment Bank is opening a new regional hub in Cairo to engage with governments and businesses across the MENA region.
📈 NY Connection: John Tuttle, vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, visited the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and signed a preliminary agreement for cooperation between the two markets on dual listings, exchange-traded funds and other activities.
📉 China Connection: The Dubai Financial Market, Nasdaq Dubai and Shanghai Stock Exchange signed a preliminary agreement to strengthen ties between the capital markets of Dubai and China.
💻 Supercomputer for Hire: Nvidia, the world’s most valuable chipmaker, completed the first phase of its Israel-1 AI supercomputer two months early and announced its availability for use by select partners.
💊 Diabetes Drug: Merck, the U.S.-based global drugmaker, signed a preliminary agreement with Dammam Pharma Co. to manufacture type 2 diabetes medications in the kingdom.
🫒 Olive Shift: Climate change is hurting Jordan’s olive farmers and reducing their olive oil yields, prompting the government to encourage shifting to new olive varieties.
⚡ Gas Find: Saudi Aramco discovered two new natural gas fields as the world’s largest oil company pushes further into the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market.
🛩️ Taking off: Last week’s Dubai Airshow served as the platform for a record-breaking $101 billion in aviation deals as attendance jumped 30% to 135,000.
🚕 Light On: Dubai Taxi Co.’s initial public offering of as much as $315 million received enough orders to cover the deal within an hour of opening.
🗞️ British Press: RedBird IMI, the media and sports investment group run by former CNN head Jeff Zucker and the Abu Dhabi-based International Media Investments group, has offered to help finance a $1.4 billion deal for the Barclay family to buy Telegraph Media, the Financial Times reports.
🔎 Cyber Sequel: Dream Security, an Israeli cyber startup co-founded by Shalev Hulio, the former CEO of sanctioned spyware maker NSO, raised $33.6 million in a funding round led by Tel Aviv-based venture capital firm Aleph and Group 11 in Los Angeles.
💵 Wealth Tech: Lunate, an Abu Dhabi-based alternative investment manager, and U.S. investment bank BNY Mellon said they will invest in Alpheya, a new $300 million technology platform for wealth management in the MENA region.
💽 Large Language: AI21 Labs, an Israeli generative AI startup co-founded by Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua, completed a $208 million funding round with participation from Intel Capital and Comcast Ventures.
💰 Foiling Fraud: BioCatch, an Israeli startup whose software helps identify money laundering, secured a $70 million investment from Sapphire Ventures on terms that valued the company at more than $1 billion.
🏛️ Young Entrepreneurs: Morocco’s CIH Bank received a 20 million euro ($21.9 million) loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to offer credit to businesses led by young entrepreneurs.
🛏️ On the Nile: Saudi Arabia’s Al-Lami Holding Group said it plans to invest some $500 million in Egypt over the next two years, focusing on hotels, malls and real estate.
☀️ Solar Farm: France’s TotalEnergies and Veolia set up a solar farm in Oman, which has pledged to derive 30% of its power needs from renewable sources by 2030.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed attended a virtual meeting of the BRICS nations on Tuesday ahead of officially joining the economic bloc in January.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the UAE, attended the signing ceremony for an agreement with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to use renewable energy for all the power needs of Expo City, site of next week’s COP28 climate conference.
UAE Vice President Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed witnessed the opening of the ADSCC Bone Marrow Transplant Cellular Therapy Congress 2023 in Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s heir apparent, presided over the start of a new UAE Space Agency satellite program on Sunday called Sirb alongside Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai. He also inaugurated the city’s new $300 million Al Wathba residential housing project on Monday.
On the Circuit
Sam Altman is back in the saddle as CEO of OpenAI. After being fired last week by the company’s board and announcing that he would lead a new AI division at Microsoft, the 38-year-old tech wizard was reinstalled at the company he co-founded. Altman has recently been in the Gulf looking to raise tens of billions of dollars to back a variety of side-ventures, Bloomberg reports. Among those he’s approached are Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co.,
Amir Yaron, Governor of the Bank of Israel, was appointed to a second five-year term by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pending cabinet approval.
Mariam Almheiri, the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, addressed the Global Food Security Summit in London on Monday and called on national leaders to align their environmental policies with more sustainable ways of growing food.
Jassim Al-Budaiwi, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, told the Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain that the notion that alternative energy sources can completely replace fossil fuels is misleading.
Wakif Ben Mansour, formerly of Credit Suisse, will become acting CEO of Dubai-based investment bank Shuaa Capital following the resignation of Fawad Tariq Khan on Monday.
Carmen Haddad was appointed as vice chair for its Middle East Wealth and Banking division, focusing on sovereign wealth funds, governments and private banking clients.
Zif Gafni, head of tech strategy for EMEA at JP Morgan Chase, was appointed president and general manager for new markets of Fetcherr, an Israeli startup that uses AI to manage business decisions.
🎨 Museum Chief: Mariet Westermann, vice chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, was named director and CEO of New York’s Guggenheim Museum and its affiliated foundation. Westermann will also be closely involved in the development of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is expected to open in 2025.
📽️ Saudi Cinema: Mukta A2 Multiplex WLL, the Bahrain-based subsidiary of India’s Mukta Arts, will manage movie theaters across Saudi Arabia under an agreement with Saudi cinema operator Al-Othaim Investment Co.
🎤 Broadway in Riyadh: A touring company of the Broadway musical “Phantom of the Opera” will end its stint of 59 performances at Riyadh’s Arena Theater on Dec. 5, making it the longest-running theater production ever in the Saudi capital.
🎢 Top Speed: Saudi Arabia will house the world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster – with a top speed of 155 mph – when the Falcon’s Flight opens at Six Flags Qiddiya.
🤼♂️ Fair Fight: The Saudi-backed Professional Fighters League bought Bellator MMA, its rival in mixed martial arts competition for an undisclosed price.
Ahead on the Circuit
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. Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental.
Nov. 27-29, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Abu Dhabi International Food Exhibition. Trade show for the food and beverage industry covering key sectors including grocery, organic and wellness, food technology, honey and dates. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.
Nov. 27-30, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Abu Dhabi Finance Week. Annual gathering bringing leaders in government and business from 100 countries. Various locations in Abu Dhabi.
Nov. 30-Dec. 9, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Red Sea International Film Festival. Competition showcases Arab filmmakers with dozens of feature and documentary films from the region on the schedule. Arbaeen Lagoon.
Nov. 30-Dec. 12, Dubai, UAE: COP28 U.N. climate conference. Global gathering opens with speech by King Charles III, drawing government leaders, environmental groups and energy companies. Expo City.
Dec. 4-7, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE: 6th International Conference on Global Warming: The Critical Role of Oceans. A parallel conference to COP28 bringing together experts to find solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change with a focus on ocean ecosystems. Movenpick Resort.