The Weekly Circuit
👋 Hello from the Middle East!
We’re more than halfway through COP28 in Dubai and United Nations climate chief Simon Stiell says the current negotiations are a “grab bag of wishes and heavy on posturing.”
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Stiell said governments must give negotiators “clear marching orders,” adding, “If we want to save lives now and keep the 1.5C goal within reach, the highest-ambition COP outcomes must stay front and center.”
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said the kingdom won’t agree to a phasing down of fossil fuels at COP28 – one of the key questions driving the debate in the ongoing climate negotiations in Dubai. The energy minister also said that oil production cuts made by the OPEC+ group could continue past March if necessary.
A draft of the COP28 agreement, published by the U.N. climate body on Wednesday, shows negotiators are debating whether to include fossil fuels in the language of a final agreement as part of the “global stocktake” process, in which nearly 200 nations must agree on plans to curb rising global temperatures.
Abu Dhabi’s start-up ecosystem Hub71 announced a new initiative to attract companies building decarbonization products to the capital. The program will offer participants up to $136,000 in cash and incentives for equity and provide workspace, mentorship and introductions to investors and commercial partners like ADNOC, Siemens and e&. Hundreds of start-ups have already applied.
The Milken Institute’s fifth annual Middle East and Africa Summit gets underway tomorrow in Abu Dhabi, with a big presence from the host city’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co.
Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Mubadala’s Managing Director and Group CEO, will be joined by Waleed Al Muhairi, deputy group CEO; Fatima Al Noaimi, co-head of Mubadala Capital Solutions; Head of Ventures Ibrahim Ajami and Derek Rozycki, head of responsible investing. Climate finance and managing climate risk are unsurprisingly high on the agenda.
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].
Sparks of Innovation
COP28 could be the accelerator Mideast climate startups need
Momentum is building in the UAE for a wave of investment in climate technology as Dubai hosts this year’s United Nations climate conference, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
Unlocking incentives: “New COP28 agreements can unlock funding mechanisms and financial incentives for climate-focused ventures, encouraging greater investment in sustainable initiatives,” Noor Sweid, founder and managing partner at UAE VC firm Global Ventures, told The Circuit. She said new emission reduction and renewable energy targets will likely drive demand for new technology, “further underlining the role of regional ventures in the global transition.”
Gaining traction: Investment in so-called ClimateTech accounted for just 5% of the total capital invested in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey from 2018 through 2022, according to venture capital data platform MAGNiTT. But there are signs the sector is gaining traction, notching a 62% annual growth rate in 2022 with the expectation that the trend will only be accelerated by COP28.
Startup showcase: ClimateTech startups are developing products for a variety of industries where removing carbon emissions are especially challenging, including agriculture, energy, real estate and transportation. More than 100 climate tech startups are showing off their work at the Startup Village in COP28’s Green Zone, the area of the conference open to the public.
COP28 Green Zone lures crowds to learn, eat, pray – and shop
Record crowds are attending COP28 in Dubai thanks to a dedicated area open to the public that is part trade show, installation art, food fest and community meeting all in one – with a dash of Stella McCartney.
Tension rising: The so-called Green Zone at the legacy site of Dubai Expo 2020 has over 400,000 registered day-pass holders during the 10-day period, Rebecca Anne Proctor reports for The Circuit. That’s in addition to the 88,000 who are accredited to go behind the velvet ropes and enter the Blue Zone – where the tense climate negotiations are being held.
Successful site: Organizers tick off several reasons for COP’s explosive popularity this year, starting with growing global climate concern, Dubai’s position as a global tourism hub, the Expo site’s expansive size and good transportation to reach it.
Iconic Stella: McCartney, a star British fashion designer and daughter of the 81-year-old ex-Beatle, has become an icon for the environmental movement, unafraid to take on her own industry. “Fashion is known to be one of the most polluting industries on the planet and at present it is not policed at all,” McCartney told The Circuit.
Grape stems: This time, her onsite boutique showcases highlights from the recent McCartney collection, which boasts environmentally friendly materials used to create garments and accessories. Made from grape stems, a new vegan leather called Vegea features prominently in McCartney’s creations, promoted jointly with LVMH-owned luxury brand Veuve Clicquot.
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ADQ: The Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Co. (ADNEC), which is wholly owned by Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment arm, has acquired Karavel, one of France’s largest tourism groups, from Equistone Partners Europe. Karavel offers travel packages to Europe, the Middle East and Africa and expands ADNEC’s tourism portfolio which includes Tourism365 and its subsidiaries Capital Experience, Capital Travel, Capital Holidays, Etihad Holidays and Capital Drive.
Public Investment Fund: Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion sovereign wealth fund continues a luxury hotel buying spree, announcing it is acquiring a 49% stake in Rocco Forte’s luxury hotel group and planning to double the chain’s size over the next five years with new hotels in the Middle East, Italy and the U.S.. The deal values Forte’s group of 14 hotels at $1.8 billion, including debt. Last year, the PIF bought minority stakes in luxury hotel groups Aman Resorts and Habitas.
Qatar Investment Authority: Bookrunners Citigroup and Bank of America were left holding some shares in Barclays after they could not identify enough demand for a $642 million stake sold by Qatar Holding, a subsidiary of QIA, Reuters reports.
Mubadala: The sovereign wealth fund will sponsor NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arabian Center for Climate and Environmental Sciences (ACCESS). Through the strategic partnership, the center has officially been renamed the Mubadala ACCESS Center. The Mubadala ACCESS Center is a research center on the climate and environment of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf region.
🌴 Tax Haven: Saudi Arabia will offer new incentives to foreign companies that make the kingdom their regional HQ, including a 30-year break from corporate income tax.
🎲 Game On: Some of the world’s biggest casino bosses are set to arrive in Dubai for a gaming conference being hosted by business publication Arabian Business in January next year.
🏗️ New Address: Dubai developer Emaar has revived the development of an Address-branded resort in Ras Al Khaimah that will be five times bigger than originally planned and set to open in 2028, one year after the Wynn resort on the same offshore Al Marjan island.
🏥 Healthy Show: Dubai trade show Arab Health has sold out for the 49th edition of the show when it returns on Jan. 29.
🇲🇦 Carbon Removal: The European Union has agreed to provide Morocco with about $54 million to support renewable energy development and carbon removal programs.
🐠 Marine Oasis: The newly launched Dubai Reef project will be one of the world’s largest marine reef developments and increase fish stocks and support sustainable fishing in the emirate.
💻 Hacker Defense: Saudi Arabia released an updated package of cybersecurity tools for use by government agencies and private enterprises to thwart hackers.
🥦 Fly Organic: Qatar Airways is offering a range of organic foods as part of its in-flight meals through March while the Expo 2023 Doha agriculture festival takes place.
🦟 Healthier Planet: The UAE and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $100 million each in a $777 million fund for eradicating tropical diseases that are expected to worsen as temperatures climb.
💱 Egyptian E-Pounds: Egypt’s central bank is studying a proposed digital currency that could be used for mobile phone transactions and reduce the need to print banknotes.
📈 Crypto Jump: Shares of UAE-based crypto miner Phoenix Group on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange soared 35% on Tuesday, the first day of trading after its IPO and on the back of surging Bitcoin prices, bringing the company’s market value to $3.3 billion.
💰 Sustainable Finance: First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender, said it will lend, invest or arrange $135 billion in sustainable business financing by 2030.
🚙 Safe Driving: Foretellix, an auto-tech safety startup, raised $42 million in a funding round led by 83North, with investment from Nationwide, Volvo and OurCrowd.
💰 Taking Credit: Abu Dhabi-based Neovision Wealth Management is setting up a $250 million fund to invest in the development of carbon credits in frontier markets, a first of its kind in the Middle East.
💵 Data Funds: Vast Data, an Israeli-founded AI software company, started raising money in a funding round led by Fidelity Investments that values the firm at more than $9 billion.
📱 Mobile Partners: Kuwait’s Zain Group, Qatar’s Ooredoo and Dubai’s TASC Towers signed definitive agreements to combine their mobile tower networks into a $2.2 billion regional venture.
🛢️ Clean Energy: Fifty oil and gas companies, including Aramco, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies, signed a pledge at COP28 to speed up the shift to sustainable fuels.
🚢 Green Canal: Norway’s renewable energy firm Scatec signed a preliminary pact with the Suez Canal economic zone to supply ships with $1.1 billion of green methanol.
🚺 Women’s Fund: Ebdaa Bahrain Microfinance Co. said it has provided $26.6 million in soft financing to some 9,800 Bahraini women to establish small businesses since 2009.
♨️ Geothermal Deals: The UAE is part of major green energy deals with Kenya, signed on the sidelines of COP28, including a $1 billion geothermal project with the Indonesian government, through Masdar-backed Pertamina Geothermal Energy and an $800 million investment from AMEA Power of the UAE and Gothermal Development Co. of Kenya on another geothermal project.
Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Abu Dhabi on Wednesday for a meeting with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed. He later continued on to Riyadh to visit Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed traveled to Doha on Tuesday to lead the UAE delegation to the 44th session of Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), set to be held today (Tuesday) in Qatar. On Monday, he met with King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani shook hands with President of Israel Isaac Herzog on Friday on the sidelines of COP28.
UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed met with Ruth Porat, chief investment and financial officer of Alphabet and Google on Sunday at Dubai International Financial Centre.
A 3D hologram of the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan appeared at COP28, walking onstage and challenging world leaders to save the environment.
On the Circuit
Nassef Sawiris, Egypt’s wealthiest man, is moving his family investment office to Abu Dhabi to manage holdings in Europe, the Middle East and North America.
John Kerry, the White House climate envoy, publicly criticized Chevron and other U.S. oil companies for not doing their part to slow global warming.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said at the Bloomberg Green Summit in Dubai on Tuesday that he is working to reduce the influence of oil-producing states at next year’s COP.
Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgwater Associates and billionaire investor, said at the Bloomberg conference that rising interest rates have made it harder to get climate projects off the ground than during recent years of “free money.”
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi signed an agreement with Philippines Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual to start negotiations on setting up a free-trade agreement between the two countries.
Faisal Juma Belhoul, founder and chairman of Ithmar Capital Partners, will be one of several dealmakers on the upcoming reality TV show, “Shark Tank Dubai.” The program, an adaptation of the U.S. show that has become a showcase for startups, will also feature Noor Sweid, founder and managing partner of Global Ventures; Amira Sajwani, founder and CEO of Prypco; Elie Khoury, CEO and chairman at Vivium Holding, and Yousef Hamad, managing partner at BECO Capital.
📽️ Hollywood in Jeddah: Actors Will Smith and Johnny Depp generated Hollywood star power at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea International Film Festival. Smith, who sat for an onstage interview at the Vox Cinemas on Saturday at Jeddah’s Red Sea Mall, hailed the kingdom’s budding movie industry and said his newest career ambition is to teach filmmaking. Without directly addressing his public slapping of host Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards, Smith told the Saudi audience he has “been deeply humbled” and his “virtue is not yet perfected.”
🎾 Center Court: Tickets are now on sale for the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open 2024. Tunisia’s tennis phenom Ons Jabeur is set to play at the tournament which starts on Feb. 5.
⛳ Rahm’s Choice: Pro golf is abuzz with speculation that No. 3-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain is about to break with the PGA and join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, the Wall Street Journal reports. Rahm’s decision looms with the approach of the Dec. 31 deadline for a merger agreement by the PGA and LIV that was announced in June.
Ahead on the Circuit
Dec. 6-12, Dubai, UAE: COP28 U.N. climate conference. Global environmental gathering continues, drawing government leaders, environmental groups and energy companies. Expo City.
Dec. 6-7, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE: 6th International Conference on Global Warming. 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.
Dec. 7, Dubai, UAE: Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum. Industry leaders, investors, policymakers gather at second day of annual conference to discuss the future of energy use and new forms of power generation. St. Regis Dubai, The Palm.
Dec. 6-7, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE: Global Citizen Forum. A gathering of community leaders for workshops and training focused on governance, technology, mobility, sustainability and culture. InterContinental.
Dec. 6-7, Cairo, Egypt: EDEX-Egypt Defense Expo. Final days of annual gathering for region’s defense contractors, government security officials and investors. Egypt International Exhibition Centre.
Dec. 7-8, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit. The fifth annual gathering of business leaders, investors, government officials and philanthropists on the theme “Navigating Complexity through Collaboration.” Rosewood Abu Dhabi.
Dec. 7-8, Hong Kong: FII Priority. A summit on megatrends hosted by the Future Investment Initiatives Institute. Also being live-streamed. HKEX Connect Hall.
Dec. 7-9, Manama, Bahrain. Manama Health Congress and Expo. Annual conference brings together healthcare executives, government policymakers, investors. Exhibition World Bahrain.
Dec. 10-11, Doha, Qatar. Doha Forum 2023. Gathering of policymakers, investors, academics to discuss top economic and political challenges. Sheraton Grand hotel.
Dec. 12-14, Marrakesh, Morocco: Arab SME Summit 2023. Executives from small and medium-size businesses across the Middle East. Site supplied with registration.