The Daily Circuit
👋 Hello from the Middle East!
Today we’re looking at Dubai’s big leap toward a flying taxi network, the PIF preparing a bid for an Italian soccer club, a plan by Israel’s Tower Semiconductor for an $8 billion chip factory in India and the vintage Rolex with a UAE connection that’s up for sale. But first, participants at the World Governments Summit are sloshing through rare rain puddles at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang made a strong sales pitch to the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence Omar Al Olama onstage today at the World Governments Summit in Dubai. More than 25 world leaders, 140 governments and 85 international organizations are among the 4,000 attendees at the three-day event under the theme “Shaping Future Governments.”
The semiconductor chief, whose California-headquartered firm has a $1.73 trillion market cap, said that every country should have its own AI infrastructure and protect its “data sovereignty.” Doing so would capture the most economic upside, he said, adding that companies in the Gulf like Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi-backed G42 are already doing this. “You cannot allow that to be done by other people,” Huang said. “Build the infrastructure as fast as you can.”
Minister Al Olama asked Huang about the eye-watering $7 trillion OpenAI CEO Sam Altman is seeking — and reportedly courting UAE investors on — to realize his biggest ambitions for ChatGPT. Huang quipped that Altman was apparently looking to buy “all” of the world’s AI chips.
In October of last year, the U.S. expanded restrictions on chips and Nvidia said at the time it was working with customers in China and the Middle East to obtain export licenses for new products to comply. Huang did not provide an update on the issue today. On Friday, G42 said it has sold its stakes in Chinese companies including TikTok owner ByteDance, as the group seeks to reassure U.S. partners by cutting ties with China, the Financial Times reports.
📰 Developing Stories
WHEN TAXIS FLY
Dubai has taken another step toward launching flying taxis amid growing gridlock on the emirate’s roads. Key stakeholders in the project – Dubai and federal regulators, U.S. aircraft company Joby Aviation and UK company Skyports Infrastructure – signed an agreement ahead of the World Governments Summit in Dubai on Sunday to get Joby’s aircraft into service by 2026. A spokesperson for Skyports told The Circuit the four planned takeoff locations – near Dubai International Airport, the Downtown area, Dubai Marina, and Palm Jumeirah – would cost around $10 million each to construct. Skyports will foot the bill and generate revenue by charging Joby takeoff and landing fees. A typical journey from DXB to Palm Jumeirah is expected to take 10 minutes by air taxi compared with 45 minutes by car. The Joby Aviation S4 is designed to accommodate four passengers plus a pilot and is clearing regulatory hurdles to be certified for commercial flight.
Egypt’s Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said the government will be able to absorb some of the impact that Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have had on revenue from the Suez Canal because of higher receipts earlier in 2023, Reuters reports. Additionally, he said, hiring private contractors for certain projects instead of using government companies cut expenses by 10%. The government of Yemen, meanwhile, will receive a second $250 million installment from a Saudi $1 billion grant this week to support salary payments as it fights against the Houthi rebels. Yemen’s central bank governor Ahmed bin Ahmed Ghaleb Al-Maabqi told Reuters at the WGS summit that Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have caused further damage to the country’s war-blighted economy.
💲 Sovereign Circuit
Public Investment Fund: The PIF, which owns Britain’s Newcastle United soccer team, is getting ready to make an offer of $970 million for Italy’s AS Roma club, the Daily Mail of London reports.
Mubadala: The venture capital arm of the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund is in talks with biotech companies raising money to develop psychedelic drugs to treat mental health disorders, the Financial Times reports. As clinical data and expected regulatory approvals help the niche industry shed some of its stigma, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into developing treatments that harness the mind-altering substances.
🗣 Circuit Chatter
☀️ Chinese Energy: A visit by Chinese officials to Kuwait may lead to China’s construction of a solar energy plant in the kingdom, the Arab Times Kuwait reports.
💰 Family Value: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is rolling out a new program in collaboration with MIT Sloan Executive Education to provide family businesses with training on succession planning and market expansion.
🛢️ Energy Transition: Saudi Aramco’s decision not to go ahead with a plan to increase oil production capacity last month stemmed from the growing shift to alternative fuels, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told the International Petroleum Technology Conference today in Dhahran.
↪↩ Closing Circuit
🛏️ Luxury Getaway: Red Sea Global secured $522 million in financing from Riyad Bank to advance the development of the Four Seasons Hotel on Saudi Arabia’s Shura Island.
🇮🇳 Indian Chips: Israel’s Tower Semiconductor has submitted a proposal to build an $8 billion chipmaking facility in India, the Indian Express reports.
🕰️ Unique Timepiece: A vintage yellow gold Rolex bearing a UAE emblem is for sale on The Keystone for $105,000.
🌍 Power Circuit
UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received a call offering condolences from Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Sunday following an attack that killed UAE Armed Forces members in Somalia. Separately, Sheikh Mohamed implored the international community to seize the opportunity to build a better future on the eve of the World Governments Summit in Dubai.
Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid met with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Chairman of the World Economic Forum on Sunday, as well as Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, ahead of the start of the World Governments Summit. Schwab used his address at WGS today to discuss the pace of change.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE this week and opening of a massive pink sandstone Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi reflects growing Emirati interest in building stronger financial ties with the world’s most populous nation, Bloomberg reports.
➿ On the Circuit
Mohammad Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs, highlighted the cost of disruptions to the world economy in his opening address at the World Governments Summit today.
Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar Alkhorayef were on hand in the port city of Jubail on Sunday for the launch of a factory for industrial chemicals and oilfield services.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury weighed in on competitor Boeing’s recent safety issues with the 737 Max aircraft at the World Governments Summit today, saying that as an industry, everyone “shares the objective of keeping aviation as the safest mode of transport today.”
Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron said in a statement that the country’s economy is strong despite the downgrade of its credit rating by Moody’s and should rebound quickly once the Gaza war is over.
🎶 Culture Circuit
🎨 Design in the desert: Design Space AlUla, a permanent gallery dedicated to design initiatives across Saudi’s ancient oasis city, is opening in the Al-Jadidah Arts District. The inaugural exhibition, “Mawrid: Celebrating Inspired Design,” is open to the public from Feb. 15.
📅 Circuit Calendar
Feb. 11-17, Doha, Qatar: Qatar TotalEnergies Open 2024. Professional women’s tennis tournament now in its 22nd edition. International Tennis and Squash Complex.
Feb. 12-14, Dubai, UAE: World Governments Summit. Artificial intelligence takes center stage this year at the global gathering. Madinat Jumeirah.
Feb. 12-13, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Global Smart City Forum. AI and smart city experts convene to discuss the future of these cities and their impact on communities. The Arena.
Feb. 16-18, Munich, Germany: Munich Security Conference. Defense industry, foreign policy and national security leaders gather for annual summit. Hotel Bayerischer Hof.
Feb. 19-20, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Capital Markets Forum. A gathering of government ministers, banks and local publicly traded companies to discuss integrating emerging markets with established financial systems. King Abdullah Financial District.
Feb. 21-22, Dubai, UAE: Step Conference. The Dubai edition of the leading tech festival for emerging markets. Internet City.
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.
Feb. 29-March 2, Sakhir, Bahrain: Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Bahrain International Circuit.
March 1, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Abu Dhabi Family Office Summit. One of the largest meetings in the region for family office leaders and investors. Saadiyat Rotana.
March 4-7, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: LEAP. A global technology conference for developers, startups, investors, C-suite and media. King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center.
March 5-6, Doha, Qatar: International LNG Forum. Gathering of industry leaders and key stakeholders to discuss the future of gas in a key export market. InterContinental Doha Beach.
March 7-9, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit.