Startup of the Week: UAE platform forays into Saudi Arabia, to ramp up staff strength – Arab News

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CAIRO: UAE-based fitness platform Enhance Fitness is aiming to triple its current trainer base as it announces its launch in Saudi Arabia.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Enhance Fitness CEO and founder Tarek Mounir said that the platform has around 250 trainers and will be able to reach 700 in the next 24 months.
“The biggest focus of our strategy is just going to be in the Kingdom at least for the next 24 months. So we’re literally just focused entirely on the Saudi business,” Mounir added.
The platform allows users to book a session with their preferred trainer, which could be in their residence area or at their community gym.
Mounir explained that the company hires trainers from gyms, hotels, or community areas by providing them with the right tools and software to manage their training sessions further.
“That’s why we consider that hotels and gyms are actually our clients, and not our competitors, because we come, and we take that part of the responsibility away from them,” he added.
Moreover, users can access a wide range of workout and fitness activities such as bodybuilding, mixed martial arts, yoga, and its client gyms and hotels without additional costs.
Mounir launched the platform in 2018 after experiencing a knee injury and was unable to connect with trainers due to a lack of qualification transparency.
Through its academy, Enhance Fitness provides trainers with professional training and qualifications so they are able to reach their audience better.
“We have a team of tutors who train the trainers. And these guys have developed an entire curriculum that’s been uploaded on our digital platform,”
“We have our internal platform for training, so the trainers can always continue to improve their knowledge, whether in the hard skills or the soft skills,” Mounir explained. He also added that the company would hire many Saudi national trainers as a part of its expansion strategy.
“Because we’re aiming to hire a big number of Saudi nationals, a big part of our mission is not necessarily to find personal trainers but fitness enthusiasts who we can train, accredit, and utilize for the business as well,” Mounir stated.
Changing the shape of fitness, COVID-19 has had a positive effect when it comes to Mounir’s business as he stated that health awareness became 10 times bigger during the pandemic.
“We started training everybody virtually, whether it’s Zoom or Google meet, the trainer would open their laptop or their screen or their phone or their tablet and start virtual training,” he added.
Mounir also said that the business exploded after COVID-19, seeing an annual growth rate of almost three times.
The company raised $3 million in 2021 in its series A funding round. It is aiming to raise an additional $15 million in its next round as well as expand even further into Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the UK and Singapore.
RIYADH: Gulf markets have witnessed a banner year with regards to initial public offerings, benefiting from a war-driven surge in oil prices.
The Gulf Cooperation Council exchanges have seen an increase in foreign inflows despite ongoing global volatility, which sent shares to their lowest levels in years because of inflation and interest rate concerns.
Saudi Arabia’s stock market raised almost $9.3 billion through 15 IPOs last year, making it one of the most active markets in the Middle East and Africa.
Tadawul, or the Saudi Stock Exchange, maintained its momentum in 2022, as it listed 17 companies, raising $5.07 billion from IPOs in the first half of the year.
The main TASI index accounted for eight listings generating $4.4 billion, and the parallel Nomu market had nine listings worth $649 million. 

Among the major initial share sales were Elm Co., Nahdi Medical Co. and Al-Dawaa Medical Services Co., which sold out in record time.
Elm, Saudi Public Investment Fund’s digital security firm, ranked second among all high-flying stocks in the first half of 2022, gaining 70 percent since its listing this year.
Al-Dawaa Medical Services Co., whose IPO was 2,515 percent oversubscribed, suffered a 9 percent drop in share price since listing. 
Its pharmaceutical rival Nahdi, however, recorded a 9 percent jump in its stock price since its market debut, after the retail tranche of its IPO was oversubscribed 13 times.
The surge in IPOs further helped boost the value of foreign ownership in the Kingdom, which reached SR450 billion ($119.72 billion) by the end of the first quarter of 2022 — an increase of 209 percent compared to the same period last year.
The Saudi-listed companies with the highest foreign investor ownership are Alinma Tokio Marine Co., Arabia Insurance Cooperative Co., and United International Transportation Co., with 29, 28, and 27 percent foreign ownership, respectively. 
The Saudi stock market also witnessed a growth of 85 percent in GCC ownership to SR60.6 billion by the end of the first quarter of 2022 from SR32.7 billion two years ago.
Even as the Saudi market led the region in initial share sales in the first quarter of 2022, GCC peers also witnessed a flurry of IPOs since the start of the year. 
The outlook for the region is positive, and the IPO rally is only set to boom for the rest of the year, with many companies lined up for share sales in the oil-rich region.
Here’s an overview of some of the biggest GCC IPOs in 2022:
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority was one of the largest IPOs of the year globally. The state-owned utility raised $6.1 billion and attracted orders valued at $86 billion from investors. This offering marked the biggest regional IPO since Saudi oil giant Aramco raised over $25 billion in 2019.
Nahdi Medical Co.
Pharma chain operator Nahdi Medical Co. completed a $1.36 billion IPO on Saudi Arabia’s primary stock market in March. Present across the Kingdom and the UAE, the company held a 31 percent market share of total pharmacy sales in the Kingdom by the end of 2021.
Borouge
Petrochemicals maker Borouge’s $2 billion IPO drew $83 billion in orders from Abu Dhabi’s largest-ever share sale. Borouge, which is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and Austrian chemicals producer Borealis, sold almost 3 billion shares, representing 10 percent of capital. The IPO attracted interest from prominent investors, including the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock Inc. and Fidelity.
TECOM Group
Dubai business park operator TECOM Group raised $454 million by selling 625 million shares in an IPO, with an offer price of $0.73 per share. The global offer attracted substantial demand from both institutional and retail investors, with a total gross demand of $9.6 billion and an oversubscription level of 21 times.
Abu Dhabi Ports
Abu Dhabi Ports, one of the leading logistics facilitators in the region, sold 1.25 million shares in an IPO worth $1.1 billion. Even as the shipping sector got hit by supply chain snags, the IPO of the port operator was a success as it attracted investor interest and made a strong debut on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Elm Co. 
Owned by the PIF, Riyadh-based digital security firm Elm Co. raised $820 million in proceeds from an IPO. The final offer price was $34.1 per share, the top end of an indicative range.
DUBAI: Most Gulf central banks lifted their main interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday, moving with the US Federal Reserve as their currencies are pegged to the dollar.
The Central Bank of Kuwait, the only one of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that ties its currency to a basket rather than just the dollar, raised its key discount rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 2.5 percent.
The central banks of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain all raised their key rates by 75 bps to 3 percent, 3.75 percent, 3 percent and 3.25 percent, respectively.
“The rates hikes by the GCC central banks continue to show commitment to the regional currency pegs to the USD,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, adding Kuwait’s currency basket gave it more monetary flexibility.
The Fed hike comes on top of a 75-basis-point hike last month — its biggest since 1994 — and smaller moves in May and March, as it battles a 1980s-level breakout of inflation.
The Saudi Central Bank returned to moving in parallel with the Fed after it raised rates by 50 bps last month, deviating from the Fed’s move as it faces lower inflation than the rest of the Gulf.
“Inflation in the region is lower than in the US and so the same magnitude of monetary tightening is not required in the region. This is especially true for the GCC countries that introduced a fuel price cap,” Malik said.
The central bank of the UAE, the only GCC country that does not have a fuel price cap, said this month it expected inflation at 5.6 percent for 2022.
The Central Bank of Oman, the remaining GCC country, is widely expected to follow with a similar move.
“Our forecasts are already assuming some headwinds to non-oil economic activity and credit demand in the GCC from the fast pace of interest rate hikes in this cycle, especially as they build cumulatively,” Malik said.
“However, we see key development plans continuing to underpin economic activity. ”
ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange recorded its highest rise in terms of market value and trading value at the end of the second quarter of 2022, according to the Arab Monetary Fund, Emirates News Agency reported.
The AMF reported Wednesday, in its quarterly bulletin on the performance of Arab stock markets, that the ADX gained $29.23 billion in market value, rising from $513.19 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2022 to $542.42 billion in the second quarter of 2022.
It said the Dubai Financial Market’s market value increased by $24.45 billion, reaching $143.57 billion by the end of the second quarter of 2022, up from $119.12 billion in the first quarter.
According to the AMF, the market value of Arab financial markets listed in its database fell by 2.86 percent, or nearly $126.89 billion, reaching $4,311.93 billion by the end of the second quarter of 2022.
Most of the performance indicators of Arab stock exchanges had consistently declined, it noted.
The report added that several Arab markets declined in performance because of interest rate increases by the US Federal Reserve and some international banks in the region, as well as inflationary pressures.
KUWAIT: The Clean Fuels Project is one of the largest and most significant projects in the history of the Kuwaiti oil sector as it will position Kuwait among major exporters of high-quality and eco-friendly products, the Kuwait News Agency reported.
The project is part of Kuwait’s effort to become a regional economic attraction hub and represents a historic milestone that will strengthen Kuwait’s position as an influential and competitive state capable of meeting stringent conditions in various global markets, as well as its global position in the oil refining industry by expanding and upgrading the Mina Abdullah and Mina Al-Ahmadi refineries.
In addition to advanced conversion capabilities, the operational excellence, reliability, safety performance and energy efficiency of the two refineries have been greatly improved.
Their clean products meet US, European, and Asian standards, including Euro-4 and Euro-5.
The equipment and technology used in the execution of this massive project were developed by 199 companies from 23 countries.
Kuwait National Petroleum Co. Deputy CEO for Administrative and Commercial Affairs and Official Spokesman Ahed Al-Khurayif stated that due to global oil industry advancement and variables in different environmental requirements locally and globally, the company has carried out the CFP, which has helped revamp product specifications in line with the required global standards.
According to KUNA, the project reflects the company’s overall strategic vision to become one of the most competitive and advanced refining companies in the world and manifests the optimal use of the country’s oil resources as one of the Kuwait Petroleum Corp.’s top strategic goals.
Al-Khurayif estimates that the CFP’s capex would be KD 4.68 billion (around $15.2 billion), citing the financing process as the largest in Kuwait’s oil industry history.
According to the company’s official, the KPC funded 30 percent of the project’s capex, while the remaining 70 percent was financed by foreign sources.
Because of the project’s massive size, it was divided into three major parts, each of which was carried out by a consortium of international companies, Al-Khurayif said.
Following the project’s successful completion, the refining capacity of the Mina Abdullah and Mina Al-Ahmadi refineries has increased to 454,000 and 346,000 barrels per day, respectively, according to the official. 
The 800,000-bpd quantity, combined with Al-Zour oil refinery’s expected 600,000-bpd production capacity, will bring the refined oil total to 1.4 million bpd, achieving the best value added and highest possible revenue from hydrocarbon resources, Al-Khurayif boasted.
One of the project’s primary goals is to increase the conversion capacity of the company’s refineries by converting heavy low-quality products into high-quality ones.
As a result of the products meeting Euro-4/Euro-5 standards, the environmental impact is greatly reduced due to the significantly lower content of SOx, NOx and other pollutants. 
Sulfur content in gasoline, for example, will be reduced from 500 ppm to 10 ppm, and in gasoil from 5,000 ppm to 10 ppm, he added.
Furthermore, the KNPC is now prepared to produce ship fuel oil containing 0.5 percent sulfur, in accordance with the International Maritime Organization’s 2020 requirements, he added.
Al-Khurayif stated that the CFP is one of the strategic projects that serve Kuwait’s Vision 2035 by providing job opportunities to Kuwaiti nationals.
Since its inception, the project has created approximately 800 jobs for Kuwaiti nationals while also developing their capabilities and skills, he said, adding that internal and external training courses were held for approximately 650 newly recruited employees. Nationals make up at least 30 percent of the workforce per contract.
Local spending was one of the project’s key aspects, Al-Khurayif said, with its contractors spending a total of KD 1.1 billion in the local market during all execution phases.
In terms of environmental significance, he said that the company’s products meet the most stringent global environmental specifications and that the project meets the needs of local power plants for clean low-sulfur fuel, thereby reducing environmental hazards. 
RIYADH: Ministers from Saudi Arabia and Greece came together with leading private sector officials to discuss ways to enhance economic and investment cooperation between the two countries at a special Forum on Wednesday.
The meeting included discussions on communications, transport, logistics and energy, in addition to a signing ceremony for a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding, amounting to around SR14 billion ($3.7 billion).
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih said that the Saudi-Greek Investment Forum will strengthen bilateral economic relationship between the two countries.
“For everything that we do to advance our relations are about this — whether in the form of a fiber optic data cable, electricity, culture, shipping or people to people contacts. We are truly at a historical inflection point in our bilateral economic relations,” said Al-Falih in a tweet.

During the investment forum, Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with Greece to extend a submarine cable to help the Kingdom become a “major player” in the digital economy, Saudi Minister of Communications Abdullah Al-Sawaha told Al-Sharq.
“We seek for Saudi Arabia to be a magnet for cloud computing and building a new economy based on artificial intelligence,” Al-Sawaha said.
He added: “Today, we started from the stage of building the local leadership, then the digital regional leadership, and we will be the global leadership in 2030.”
During the forum, Bahri, the national shipping carrier of Saudi Arabia signed two memorandum of understanding to strengthen the maritime sector.
A strategic partnership was announced between the Saudi and Greek private sectors on the sidelines of the Crown Prince’s visit to build a data cable project linking the East to the West.
This cable will ensure the smooth digital supply of data worldwide at a time when the data traffic is growing by more than 30 percent, SPA said.
This comes through the leadership of the Saudi Telecom Co. on the submarine cable project in partnership with the Greek Telecom Co., the General Energy Co. of Greece and the Cyprus Telecom Co.
STC Group announced that its subsidiary Middle East and North Africa Hub will cooperate with the Greek telecom firm TSSA to build a data corridor that extends from the Kingdom to Europe through a modern, high-capacity network of terrestrial optical fibers under the sea and will connect Europe with Asia.
The project aims to position the two countries as an eastern digital station for Europe to reach the Middle East, the continents of Africa and Asia. 
Along with 21 investment agreements, Saudi Arabia and Greece also signed a deal to promote digital transformation and innovation in the fields of energy, including cybersecurity, while working to develop qualitative partnerships to localize materials, products and services related to all energy sectors and their associated supply chains and technologies.

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