The Daily Circuit
Hello from Davos!
Today, we’re featuring a Circuit interview on the Davos sidelines with Bob Wilt, CEO of the Saudi mining company Ma’aden as well as comments from investor Ray Dalio at the MISK foundation and from Noor Sweid, co-founder and partner at Dubai-based Global Ventures. But first to the main stage.
It’s Day 4 at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting where Middle East investment is high on the agenda. In the afternoon, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Managing Director and CEO of Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund, is due to talk about trade and investment with Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America.
The UAE’s Minister of Economy Thani Al Zeyoudi talked on a Wednesday panel about the Gulf state’s efforts to help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) engage with the global green economy under the government’s new “Ecomark” program.
“Accounting for almost 90% of global businesses, MSMEs must have full access to the global trading system if our vision of a more sustainable and equitable global economy is to be realized,” Al Zeyoudi said. “These enterprises are also important agents of change, with the flexibility and singularity of focus required to drive sustainability across value chains.”
Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Alibrahim told a WEF panel on Wednesday that the kingdom is looking at better ways to exploit its natural resources. “We’ve looked at the vast, valuable yet idle assets and have started thinking about how we can mobilize them for the betterment and in contribution to our national objectives,” he said.
After a frigid three days in Davos with a dusting of snow, temperatures rose above freezing today and the icy streets turned to slush. Some WEF delegates were, nevertheless, seen tromping to the nearby ski lodge dressed in dayglo overalls and toting snowboards, trying to catch a morning on the slopes before heading home.
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.
Saudi-backed Ma’aden’s CEO on the gold mine beneath the kingdom
Saudi Arabia is sitting on a gold mine. Also phosphate, bauxite, copper, zinc and nickel. Analysts have called the estimated value of its mineral resources – last put at $2.5 trillion – one of the most significant potential contributors to its economic transformation ambitions.
The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner caught up with Bob Wilt, who moved from California to Saudi Arabia two years ago to take up the helm of one of the world’s fastest growing mining operations, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. He calls minerals and mining “the third pillar of the Saudi economy.”
Click here to read the full interview.
👂 Heard at Davos
Dubai Future Foundation CEO Khalfan Belhoul told The Circuit the government-backed entity’s Future Fund has $300 million to invest, with check sizes around $2-5 million, as well as a fund of funds to spur venture capital investing in the private sector. “When the private sector sees that a government fund is anchoring them, it raises comfort for them to invest in this new high-risk, high-return asset class. The region is emerging when it comes to VC,” he said.
Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates, told a session in Davos of the Youth Majis at the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, known as MISK, that the climate finance industry must recognize the need for investors to see a profit. “The biggest issue of the climate is that only one-sixth of the money that needs to be going to climate financing is going to climate financing” he said. “You have to understand who has the money. You have to be practical…Profit is a great motivator. If you inject those practicalities into it, I think you’re going to make a lot of progress.”
Noor Sweid, co-founder and partner at venture capital fund Global Ventures, asked former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt what he believed the future holds for Formula-E, the all-electric racing series he created, and he emphasized the need to get more people to switch to EVs. “There’s a lot to be done. We need to educate people more. Very few cars are electric.”
💲 Sovereign Circuit
Public Investment Fund: The Global Sovereign Wealth Fund’s online newsletter points out the “significant risk” to its major projects on the Red Sea, noting their focus on tourism and vulnerability to Houthi drones and cruise missiles. Abu Dhabi’s ADQ fund was also cited as facing risk in its Red Sea investments.
Mubadala: Strata Manufacturing, a maker of aircraft components wholly owned by Mubadala, saw a 40% increase last year compared to 2022 in international shipments to Boeing, Airbus and other international
🗣 Circuit Chatter
Lipstick Stock: Saudi online cosmetics retailer Nice One is planning an IPO and has invited a range of international banks to manage the share sale.
Shutting Down: The Kuwaiti Alshaya Group, which manages brands such as American Eagle, H&M, Mothercare and Victoria’s Secret in Egypt, has decided to close some stores in response to the country’s precarious economic condition.
Self-Drivers: Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based company that makes equipment for self-driving cars, said it won a contract with an unnamed “major Western automaker.”
↪↩ Closing Circuit
Sukuk Spread: Qatar International Islamic Bank has set a spread of 120 basis points over U.S. Treasuries for its $500 million senior sustainable Islamic Sukuk bonds maturing in January 2029.
Cyber Lock: Vicarius, an Israeli startup that helps customers defend against cyber attacks, raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Bright Pixel Capital.
Big Data: Cardumen Capital, an Israeli-European venture capital firm, raised $120 million for an early-stage tech fund that will invest in AI, cybersecurity and big data.
🌍 Power Circuit
Kuwait’s new Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, has cleaned house and named a new roster of top cabinet members. Emad Al-Ateeqi was appointed Oil Minister, Anwar Al-Mudhaf is the new Finance Minister and Abdullah Al-Yahya will take up the post of Foreign Minister.
Adventure Park: The Saudi Public Investment Fund unveiled its new water sports and adventure tourism resort called “The Rig” inspired by the design of offshore oil platforms.
Extreme Sports: The Mubadala Arena hosts the second Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship on Friday featuring a jiu-jitsu No Gi match i between UFC’s Aljamain Sterling and Chase Hooper.
📅 Circuit Calendar
Jan. 19, Davos, Switzerland: World Economic Forum. Final day of the World Economic Forum conference at the Davos Congress 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. Kuwait 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.
Feb. 28-29, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Investopia. A gathering of investors hosted by SALT and Investopia, an investment platform launched by the UAE Ministry of Economy and backed by Mubadala and the Department of Economic Development. St. Regis Saadiyat.