The Weekly Circuit
👋 Hello from the Middle East!
The UAE’s top energy boss and President of the COP28 conference, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, engineered a compromise that for the first time calls on the world to move away from fossil fuels. Nearly 200 parties agreed this morning to reduce consumption of oil, gas and coal to reach net zero by mid-century. The COP28 Global Stocktake, dubbed “the UAE Consensus” by the host nation, is the result of nearly two weeks of hard-fought negotiations in Dubai between members of OPEC+ and nations led by the U.S. and European Union that went one day into overtime.
Al Jaber called the deal “historic” but warned its success would be in implementation. “We are what we do, not what we say,” he told the crowded plenary hall. “We must take the steps necessary to turn this agreement into tangible actions.” Indeed, the COP28 agreement lays out what is ahead for policymakers and financiers as a tripling of renewable energy by the end of the decade is also part of the deal.
Some attendees in Dubai took time to marvel at the outcome: “We’re standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision saying let’s move away from oil and gas,” Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Dan Jorgensen told a group of reporters.
As scandals at FTX and Binance have left a mark, the crypto industry is finding Abu Dhabi to be an appealing place for corporate development, with willing investors and amenable authorities, according to Bloomberg. Companies such as Copper Technologies, Paxos Trust, and eToro Group have increased their presence in the UAE capital in recent weeks, obtaining licenses and establishing operations in the Abu Dhabi Global Market.
Saudi Arabia is launching a new eco-tourism resort in its eastern Al-Ahsa region that implements sustainability concepts in a stylish manner. The development will be the first built by Dan Co., a new unit of the Public Investment Fund, and will feature luxury hotels, organic farming and an adventure park. The fund also supports Boutique Group, which is transforming the kingdom’s old palaces into premium boutique hotels.
CEO Peng Xiao of G42, an Abu Dhabi-backed AI firm, said that the company will phase out the use of Chinese equipment in response to US pressure and the threat of losing access to American-made AI processors. “For better or worse, as a commercial company, we are in a position where we have to make a choice,” he added. “We cannot work with both sides.”
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 climate diplomat Nawal Al-Hosany hails ‘historic’ COP28 agreement
Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany is the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), a position she has held since the post was created in April 2018.
The inter-governmental body, now 14 years old, promotes renewable energy and technology and helps countries plan and carry out energy transitions. Al-Hosany also served on the COP28 UAE Advisory Committee. She fielded questions from The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner on the final day of the COP28 climate meeting in Dubai.
Q: Nearly 200 parties just approved a plan to triple renewables by the end of this decade and transition away from coal, oil and gas. Reflect on COP28, and what comes next?
The UAE Consensus has made history. At a time when the world needed unity and action the most, the UAE COP28 Presidency delivered. The COP28 Presidential Action Agenda has closed the emissions gap by at least one-third already…
UAE looks to unify a national investment strategy, minister says
The UAE is actively working on unifying its national investment strategy to strengthen its financial infrastructure and attract multinational companies, The Circuit‘s Kelsey Warner reports.
New Aspiration: “Before we have to travel further than three or four hours, there are enough projects in the region to expand and take our businesses to the next level and that’s really our aspiration,” Investment Minister Mohamed Alsuwaidi said, There is a drive, he said, for “more investments in financial services and financial institutions and attracting those family offices and asset managers.”
Expansion Examples: Alsuwaidi cited specific examples of expansion, some in his own portfolio: the ADQ-owned energy company TAQA has opened power plants in Uzbekistan and Morocco; ADNOC is eyeing international gas projects; and ADQ-backed PureHealth, which is going public, acquired a business in the U.K. and a stake in a U.S. healthcare provider earlier this year.
Gulf Competition: Alsuwaidi brushed off the question of competition or the threat of conflict in the region: “Conflicts around the region has never stopped us from attracting talent from attracting people to come and set up shop has never attracted or deterred people from looking at the quality of security and life that they that we can offer in the UAE.”
Public Investment Fund: The PIF announced plans at a recent business conference in Hong Kong to open new offices in cities across mainland China. The fund, which bought a 25% stake in Heathrow Airport last month, is poised to gain control of Europe’s busiest air hub as several shareholders consider selling, The Times of London reports. It is also investing in fintech startup Lendo, which helps small and medium-sized Saudi businesses secure financing. Sanabil Investments, a firm wholly owned by PIF, led a Series B funding round for Lendo that raised $28 million. Shorooq Partners and AB Ventures also participated. In Africa, the PIF is promising “game changing” investments from its Ma’aden mining unit. ENOWA, the Saudi utility that will provide water and electricity for PIF-backed NEOM, plans to build the world’s first renewable, high-voltage smart grid to power the $500 billion urban development, CEO Peter Terium told Arab News.
Mumtakalat: Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund named Khalid Taqi as managing director of local impact investments and Isa Hasan as managing director of risk and portfolio construction.
Mubadala: Thrive Foods, a Mubadala-backed U.S. maker of freeze-dried foods, acquired Canature, a Canadian pet food company. Mubadala Energy is eyeing investments in the Egyptian petroleum sector, CEO Mansoor Al Hamed said during a meeting with Egypt Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El-Molla. The investment focus for Abu Dhabi’s second-largest sovereign wealth fund will increasingly be on Asia, though the U.S. will remain a key market, the fund’s CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak said at the 2023 Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit on Thursday. He also emphasized the UAE’s role as a global crossroads in an increasingly polarized world.
Qatar Investment Authority: The QIA said it will invest more than $200 million in Shenzhen, China-based Kingdee, which makes management software. Hungary is seeking to attract the fund to join a group the government is forming for the purchase of Budapest Airport, Bloomberg reports.
ADQ: AD Ports Group, a subsidiary of ADQ and a leading logistics and trade hub in Abu Dhabi, signed a preliminary agreement with Masdar to explore the development of a green hydrogen production hub within the Khalifa Economic Zones Abu Dhabi to serve both domestic and export markets on the sidelines of COP28.
⛽ Green Fuel: S2H2+Bm, a Swedish maker of green hydrogen, said it will build a production plant in Morocco by 2025 with a capacity of 500,000 tons.
🚰 Water Supply: The UAE is building three desalination plants in the Egyptian border city of Rafah to supply drinking water to war-torn Gaza.
💰 Climate Costs: The substantial financial resources of Gulf countries should allow them to adapt and mitigate much of the impact of global warming, S&P said in a report.
🚲 E-Bike Delivery: Dubai-based Careem will introduce a fleet of electric delivery motorbikes and a network of charging stations to the Emirati city-state.
🐄 No Cows Harmed: Planted, a Swiss maker of plant-based meat, is entering the UAE market and will seek to introduce sustainable food choices to the MENA region.
💰 Still in Business: Binance, whose CEO pleaded guilty to money laundering charges, said cancellation of its bid for a business license in Abu Dhabi does not mean it intends to stop all crypto business activities in the emirate as new CEO Richard Teng seeks to appoint a new board of directors by the first quarter of 2024.
👓 Vision Delay: Saudi Arabia is delaying some of its economic transformation projects past the Vision 2030 deadline, the kingdom’s finance minister said in an interview with Bloomberg.
🥦 Room to Grow: Dubai’s Food Tech Valley is developing a vertical farm that aims to replace 1% of the UAE’s food imports.
🌬️ Power Partners: Octopus Energy, the U.K.’s second-largest power company, is considering a partnership with the UAE’s TAQA utility to create a new innovation center in Abu Dhabi, CEO Greg Jackson told Arab News.
🛢️ Free Trade: India started talks with Oman on a free trade agreement that could boost its exports of petroleum products, jewelry and pharmaceuticals, Mumbai-based Economic Times reports.
🛢️ New Market: Saudi Aramco signed a deal to acquire a 40% stake in Gas & Oil Pakistan, providing new markets in refined products for the world’s biggest oil producer.
🇦🇪 Gulf Presence: Golub Capital, a $60 billion U.S. asset management firm, will open a UAE office and expand in the region, CEO Lawrence Golub told The National.
📈 IPO Frenzy: Gulf IPOs for PureHealth and MBC have unleashed a torrent of demand compared to anemic interest elsewhere, Bloomberg reports.
🚢 Port Overhaul: Export Development Bank of Egypt is leading a consortium of six banks that will put together a $64 million financing package for contractor Abd El Salam El Feky & Partners to fund renovation of Alexandria Port’s main breakwater.
🧠 Brain Monitoring: CorrActions, an Israel startup that helps prevent vehicle accidents through AI-based brain monitoring, raised $7.25 million in a funding round led by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. Also participating were BlackBerry, Next Gear Ventures, Mobilitech Capital and OurCrowd.
💻 Adtech Buy: Perion Network, an Israeli advertising tech company, announced it has reached an agreement to acquire Montreal, Canada-based Hivestake for $100 million.
🐄 Vertical Feed Farm: UAE-based Pure Harvest Smart Farms has entered into partnership with South Korea’s PlanTFarm to produce animal feed in vertical farms.
🚗 Everything App: The UAE’s e& telecom firm completed its $400 million acquisition of a majority stake in Uber-owned Careem Technologies, whose app provides a wide range of services that include food delivery, mobile payments and rental bicycles.
🌬️ African Partners: The UAE’s Amea Power plans to build a $600 million wind farm in Ethiopia, the company’s chairman, Hussain Al Nowais, told Arab News.
💰 Retirement Advice: Potera, an Israeli startup that offers financial advice to holders of workplace retirement accounts, raised $60 million in a funding round led by Iconic Growth.
💻 Saudi Upskilling: India’s Disprz, a career education startup, will use some of the $30 million raised in August to develop its AI platform and help “upskill” Saudi citizens, CEO Subbu Viswanathan told Arab News.
📱 Wireless Guardian: Sensorz, an Israeli startup that uses AI to protect wireless networks, raised $4.7 million in a seed funding round led by AnD ventures and Singtel Innov8.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the all but certain winner of a third term after three days of voting concluded on Tuesday. Official results are due Dec. 18.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued royal decrees giving new posts to several princes and officials, including Prince Salman bin Sultan, a former deputy defense minister, who was named governor of the western Medina region with the rank of minister.
UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and his Al Nahyan family topped Bloomberg’s annual ranking of family fortunes with holdings worth an estimated $305 billion. The Al Thani family of Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad was ranked No. 5 with $133 billion.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Ruler of Dubai and UAE Vice President, inaugurated the world’s largest concentrated solar power park last week, a $4.3 billion project covering 44 square kilometers that can generate as much as 950 megawatts of electricity.
On the Circuit
Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih met with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao in Beijing. Minister Wentao was quoted as saying they jointly agreed to promote China’s Belt and Road infrastructure investment program and Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” initiative.
Kanye West, the rapper and entrepreneur, has been shopping for property in Dubai with a prominent luxury real estate agent, Arabian Business reports.
Khalaf Al-Habtoor, chairman of Dubai-based Habtoor Group, told Arab News the company is prepared to pull out of Lebanon if the government does not take action to protect its investments.
Guy Tytunovich, CEO of Israeli startup CHEQ, met with Elon Musk in Israel last month and signed a deal to help Musk’s X Corp. eliminate bots and fake users, Globes reports.
Mohamed El-Erian, an Egyptian-American economist at the Wharton School of Business, was named winner of Dubai’s “Great Arab Minds” award in economics.
Sherif Kamel, dean of the American University in Cairo Business School, was appointed to the board of the Central Bank of Egypt as a financial expert.
James Dolan, executive chairman of MSG Networks, is reportedly pitching investors in Abu Dhabi to build a second Sphere arena, the LED-wrapped immersive music hall that is hosting a U2 residency in Las Vegas.
Simeon Kerr, the Financial Times Gulf correspondent, will move back to the U.K. to take up the newspaper’s Scotland correspondent post after 16 years in Dubai. His replacement is Chloe Cornish, the FT’s current Mumbai correspondent.
📽️ Red Sea Cinema: Egypt’s El-Gouna Film Festival will open on Thursday at the Red Sea resort after being postponed twice because of the war in Gaza. Special programs will be devoted to Palestinian and Sudanese cinema.
🦐 Fresh Catch: Straight from Paris, culinary school Le Cordon Bleu is set to open on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, a neighbor to the Louvre’s outpost in the capital. With a planned opening date in the first quarter of 2025, Le Cordon Bleu Abu Dhabi will focus its curriculum on eco-friendly seafood and food security. The news comes after the Department of Culture and Tourism put up $100 million earlier this year to lure established brands and chefs that do not yet have a Gulf presence.
🎨 Local Artists: Louvre Abu Dhabi and Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille have opened the third edition of the “Louvre Abu Dhabi Art Here” exhibition, which will be on display under the dome of the museum until Feb. 18, 2024. Curated by independent art curator and advisor Maya El Khalil, Art Here 2023 spotlights the works of artists from across the region including Saudi Alaa Tarabzouni, Kuwaiti multidisciplinary artist Farah Behbhani and Emirati painter Hashel Al Lamki, among others.
✨ All Lit Up: The third Noor Riyadh light festival opened this week with a seven-minute laser show, flashing colored beams between the Saudi capital’s Al Faisaliah Tower and Kingdom Centre skyscraper. The annual event, which runs through Dec. 16, features installations by more than 100 Saudi and international artists. The festival’s theme this year is “The Bright Side of the Desert Moon,” exploring how light can sustain, comfort and connect people.
Ahead on the Circuit
Dec. 12-14, Marrakesh, Morocco: Arab SME Summit 2023. Executives from small and medium-size businesses across the Middle East. Site supplied with registration.
Jan. 9-12, Las Vegas, Nevada: CES 2024. The largest consumer electronics show in the world. Across 12 venues including the Las Vegas Convention and World Trade Center.
Jan. 15-19, Davos-Klosters, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. The annual meeting aims to drive public-private cooperation and this year will focus on exploring opportunities enabled by new technologies.
Jan. 16-18, Dubai, UAE: Intersec. Security conference bringing together government and vendors focused on domestic, cyber, commercial, fire and rescue. Dubai World Trade Center and Commercial Security, Safety & Health, and Fire & Rescue. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Jan. 22-24, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Real Estate Future Forum. A gathering of government officials, developers and investors exploring development opportunities in the kingdom. Four Seasons Hotel.
Jan. 22-25, Abu Dhabi, UAE: UMEX. The only conference in the Middle East dedicated to drones, robotics and autonomous systems. Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Center.
Jan. 25, Dubai, UAE: Casino Countdown. First Middle East conference to focus solely on the gaming industry, sponsored by Arabian Business. Atlantis The Royal Hotel.
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, Dubai, UAE: Arab Health. The biggest trade show in the region for medical devices and healthcare. Dubai World Trade Center.