The Daily Circuit
Hello from Davos!
Today, we’re featuring a Circuit interview on the sidelines of Davos with 500 Global’s Courtney Powell and looking at the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s new focus on space and semiconductors. But first to the WEF’s headliners.
Taking the stage on Day 3 of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan said the Middle East, Africa and the entire world are feeling the Houthi assault on ships in the Red Sea and resulting blow to global commerce.
“Freedom of navigation in the Red Sea impacts all of us,” he told the Davos crowd. “We think the priority needs to be deescalation — deescalation in the Red Sea and in the entire region. Part of that is making sure we engage with all stakeholders.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken bemoaned the Trump administration’s 2018 withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear pact and what he said was the resulting damage to world security being felt today.
“I think it was a big mistake to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement,” he said on the conference’s main stage. “We had Iran’s nuclear program in a box. Since the agreement was torn up, it’s escaped from that box. And we’re now in a place where we didn’t want to be.”
President of the World Bank Ajay Banga popped his head into the UAE pavilion last night to wave hello. He had spotted his old MasterCard colleague Shamina Singh as she spoke on a panel moderated by CNN’s Becky Anderson about impact investing. And out-going U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry was spotted strolling down the center of the Promenade, looking deep in thought (mulling the Republican primary results in Iowa, perhaps?).
Anthony Scaramucci, the founder of Skybridge Capital and record holder for shortest term as White House spokesman, is all over town, confiding to The Circuit his secret to success in 17 years of coming to Davos is never being afraid to crash a party. Scaramucci also noted the strong Saudi presence at this year’s WEF conference and said it reflects the kingdom’s growing efforts to attract Western investment.
The Circuit’s Jonathan Ferziger and Kelsey Warner are on the ground in Davos to bring you the color and perspectives of all the world leaders and dealmakers as the meeting gets underway.
500 Global’s Courtney Powell predicts accelerated M&A activity in 2024
Courtney Powell, COO of San Francisco-based venture capital firm 500 Global, came to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year with a message for investors: Watch out for the Middle East and Africa, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
2024 predictions: Before heading out to meet up with her old pal and OpenAI boss Sam Altman, she shared in an interview how 500 Global navigated a tumultuous 2023, her predictions on exits and deal appetite for 2024 and her best advice to investors looking to make moves in the Gulf.
$2.7 billion AUM: Powell, who moved to Riyadh three years ago, is a veteran investor in emerging markets and one of 500’s MENA-focused funds has raised $43 million so far. The parent fund has $2.7 billion in assets under management. This interview on the sidelines of the Davos conference has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Read the full interview.
👂 Heard at Davos
Ma’aden CEO Bob Wilt told The Circuit that the PIF-backed mining company would plow up to $60 billion into building up infrastructure to mine copper, gold, nickel and zinc in the kingdom over the next 15 years.
Chair of Siemens Energy Joe Kaeser said he is less concerned by the recent rise in inflation than he is by the gloomy public mood in an interview with CNBC.
Venture capitalist Noor Sweid, founder and partner of Global Ventures, told The Circuit her debut as a shark on Shark Tank Dubai was “so fun.” New episodes are still airing on Dubai TV.
💲 Sovereign Circuit
Mubadala: The Abu Dhabi fund’s Head of Life Sciences Camilla Macapili Languille said her division is shifting its investment focus toward Asia’s healthcare sector as the population ages and needs more medical services.
Qatar Investment Authority: The QIA and London-based Ashmore Group have started a $200 million fund to encourage foreign investors to buy into Qatar’s stock market.
Public Investment Fund: Saudi Communications and Information Technology Minister Abdullah Al-Swaha said the PIF will make large investments this year in the semiconductor and space industries.
🗣 Circuit Chatter
Lab-Grown: Aleph Farms, an Israeli startup that cultivates steaks from cattle cells without slaughtering cows, received Health Ministry approval to sell the meat.
Licensed to Lend: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s application to open a branch in Saudi Arabia was approved by the Saudi cabinet.
Flush Sultanate: Oman’s public debt could fall to 34% of GDP by year-end on sustained fiscal and external surpluses, according to Standard Chartered.
↪↩ Closing Circuit
Venture Boost: Saudi Aramco is allocating $4 billion more to its venture capital firm, pushing Aramco Ventures’ investment capital to $7.5 billion.
Shopping India: The UAE’s Lulu supermarket chain plans to spend $483 million to build India’s biggest shopping mall in the city of Ahmedabad, Managing Director M.A. Yussuf Ali said.
Islamic Bonds: Saudi Arabia’s Middle East Healthcare Co. said it will issue riyal-denominated Islamic Sukuk bonds under its $400 million debt program, with the timing of the sale determined by market conditions.
🌍 Power Circuit
UAE Minister of Economy Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri will speak on BRICS expansion on the main stage tomorrow while today is heavy on the West. U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the speakers addressing delegates at the Congress Center.
MMA in Riyadh: The Professional Fighters League, the mixed martial arts (MMA) group in which Saudi Arabia’s new sports fund invested $100 million, will stage its first pay-per-view event in Riyadh, pitting the PFL Champions vs. the Bellator Champions at the Kingdom Arena on Feb. 24.
📅 Circuit Calendar
Jan. 17-19, Davos, Switzerland: World Economic Forum.
Highlights for Jan. 18, Day 4 of the Davos conference. (all times CET)
- 12:30-1:30 p.m. – AI Investors Lunch with Global Chief Investment Strategist of Blackrock Wei Li. AI House.
- 1:15-2:00 p.m. – MENA’s Economic Dilemma: Reforming Amid Uncertainty with Morocco Minister of Economy Nadia Fettah Alaoui. Congress Center, livestream.
- 2:00-2:30 p.m. – No Recovery without Trade Investment with Mubadala managing director and CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak and Brian Moynihan, CEO Bank of America. Congress Center, livestream.
Jan. 17-18, Dubai, UAE: Intersec. Day 2 of UAE 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. 23, Dubai, UAE: Oracle CloudWorld Tour. A conference featuring Oracle database and cloud products. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Jan. 24, Kuwait City, Kuwait. GCC Innovation Forum. Startup investors, policymakers meet for an annual conference. Arraya Ballroom.
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. 25-27, Manama, Bahrain: Health/Wellness Expo 2024. Annual gathering of medical professionals and alternative treatment specialists. Exhibition World Bahrain.
Jan. 29-Feb. 1, Dubai, UAE: Arab Health. The biggest trade show in the region for medical devices and healthcare. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Feb. 22-23, Miami Beach, FL: FII Priority Miami. A summit on disruptive technology and investment trends hosted by the Future Investment Initiative Institute. Faena Hotel Miami Beach.
Feb. 26-29, Doha, Qatar: Web Summit Qatar. A Middle East edition of the technology crowd mega-event, gathering investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre.