Saudi Aramco venture capital arm invests in fitness app

Saudi Aramco’s venture capital arm, Wa’ed Ventures, has invested $1.5 million in Jeddah-based fitness start up GetMuv.

The mobile app, which launched in 2018, connects users with sports clubs, gyms, fitness instructors and sports events in Saudi Arabia. It also allows them to pay for fitness classes and short-term gym memberships through credit cards, SADAD payments and an in-app rechargeable wallet.

Activities offered on the app include archery, horseback riding, yoga, Pilates and Zumba, among others.

Co-founder Ali Sheneamer said existing subscriptions of licensed gyms currently generate over $800m in annual revenue in Saudi Arabia, although the kingdom boasts a low physical activity rate and underdeveloped female gym market.

“GetMuv aims to enhance the local impact of our sports sector via easing access to sports, lifestyle and fitness outlets and alternative sports activities even without upfront paid memberships or institutional restrictions,” he said.

Sheneamer said the app is looking to expand beyond Jeddah and Riyadh, where it currently operates, and into the kingdom’s Eastern Province.

Wa’ed Ventures CEO Managing Director Khalil Al Shafei said Saudi Arabia is in need of an accessible health and fitness platform like GetMuv.

“This venture carries strong potential for in-Kingdom economic growth through market augmentation and enhanced job creation within the sports sector, not to mention the impact it will have on reducing health risks by facilitating access to more diverse activities,” he said.

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Almost 50,000 jobs created in Dubai in first nine months of 2018

Nearly 50,000 job vacancies were opened over the course of nine months in 2018, according to official statistics from the UAE Central Bank.

According to the data, a total of 45,900 jobs were created between January and September, representing a 1.8 percent increase from the same time before in 201.

The report noted that Dubai is the primary driver for growth of the UAE’s labour market, and grew 0.7 percent in September, compared to 0.03 percent in June.

Across the country, the growth of the labour market was found to be stable, growing by 1.6 percent compared to 2.6 percent over the same time period in 2017.

The data also showed that the construction sector accounts for about a third of the total workforce in the country. The sector was found to have grown by approximately 1 percent.

The real estate sector grew by 4.4 percent, while in the services industry – which accounts for a fifth of the workforce – employment fell by 1.3 percent.

Other sectors that recorded slower employment growth were manufacturing and the transport, storage and communications sectors, which registered declines of 1.1 and 4 percent respectively.

While employment grew in Dubai, the statistics indicate that there was a 3.3 percent decline in employment growth in Abu Dhabi.

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Oman to see 40 million airport passengers by 2030

Oman will see as many as 40 million passengers fly through the Gulf country by 2030, according to the Oman Aviation Group, which was set up in 2018 to develop the sultanate’s aviation sector.

Since its establishment, the group created over 980 direct Omani jobs and supported nearly 8,000 indirect jobs in Oman. It also played a major role in welcoming over 1.3 million additional passengers and 215,000 tons of air cargo through Muscat alone.

Mustafa Al Hinai, CEO of Oman Aviation Group said, “As Oman’s aviation sector developer, we create a robust value chain linking aviation, tourism and logistics across the Sultanate. Our Group is a catalyst for growth, creating efficiencies, boosting revenues and increasing trade. We work to position Oman as a strategic hub and a world-class destination amongst international travellers.”

“Ultimately, we are tasked with furthering economic expansion and unlocking the connectivity potential within the sector including the $2.3m (OMR890m) contribution to GDP and the 40 million passengers expected to flow through Oman by 2030,” he added.

In addition, the group helped rank Muscat International Airport as one of the world’s top 18 airports. It also helped open new airports in Muscat and Duqm as well as two new air cargo terminals.

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Mega tennis complex in Kuwait on track for 2019 opening

The 263,430 sq m tennis complex in Kuwait is on track for its 2019 opening, as global architecture group CallisonRTKL said steady progress was being made on the project.

The Sheikh Jaber Al Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah International Tennis Complex, which is expected to attract around 11 million visitors a year, aims to boost Kuwait’s standing as the Middle East’s preferred destination for international professional tennis.

CallisonRTKL said the complex will include the Kuwait Tennis Federation headquarters, eight open-air courts, a 5,000-seat covered multi-purpose arena, a 1,600-seat centre court, a fitness centre, a 5-star hotel and retail and dining venues.

“We approached this exciting project with a clear understanding of its unique context and diverse program,” said Brendan O’Grady, vice president at CallisonRTKL’s Dallas office.

“As the designers of 360 Mall, which is connected to the complex via a pedestrian bridge, we know the value of creating a recognisable icon for Kuwait City. We expect this complex to set a new world standard for these types of multi-use districts,” he added.

The complex would also help train Kuwaiti athletes to excel in international tennis, according to Mohammed Jassim Khalid Al Marzouq, chairman at project developer Tamdeen Group.

“Today we have reached advanced stages in building this creative sports monument, which will put Kuwait and its championships on the international sports map,” he noted.

Moreover, the project will house the Middle East’s largest international tennis academy in collaboration with the Kuwait Tennis Federation, offering Kuwaiti athletes access to world-class facilities and coaches.

The project will also feature a ‘living wall’ composed of over 101 plant species.

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Real Madrid ordered to pay $1m over Oman football match

An Omani court has ordered that Spanish football giants Real Madrid pay $1.19 million in compensation to an Oman-based events company after failing to bring to bring its top footballers to a 2014 Oman Legends Cup match against arch-rivals FC Barcelona, according to local media.

According to the Muscat Daily, the Council of Administrative Affairs for the Judiciary, First Instance Court (Commercial department), ruled that the Spanish pay the compensation in addition to $2,500 in lawyers fees.

“My stand has been vindicated against Real Madrid on their breach of contract,” Said Al Shabibi, the general manager of Zan for Events and Conferences, told the newspaper. “My company suffered huge losses as the club failed to bring in the promised stars for the Oman Legends Cup.”

The match was played in March 2014.

Al Shabibi added that the lawsuit also takes into account what he said was Real Madrid’s failure to fulfil a commitment to start up a Real Madrid Academy.

“The legends game was held to promote and announce the setting up of the academy,” he said. “But to our shock and disappointment, we got to know that Real Madrid has inked a deal with another party in Oman for the academy a day ahead of the match.”

“The verdict on that appeal is yet to come but we have all the documents and evidence citing the visit of top Real Madrid officials to Muscat to discuss the project,” he added. “We also had a press conference announcing the plans for the match and academy in the presence of officials from the Spanish Embassy.”

Real Madrid has reportedly hired a local law firm to represent the team and has appealed the court’s decision.

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Airbus could make a call about the fate of the A380 tomorrow

Airbus might make a statement on the fate of its A380 programme during its earnings report tomorrow, according to reports. 

French plane maker Airbus is due to make it’s full year earnings announcement on February 14.

Forward looking statements will likely need to address a loss of nearly $5.65 billion in contracts at book value, contributed to in large part by airlines reneging on agreements to buy more of its superjumbo aircraft.

“The A380 is the elephant in the hangar; it will be impossible to avoid saying something on the subject,” Agency Partners analyst Sash Tusa said in a report by Reuters.

Orders

Last week Australian carrier Qantas cancelled eight of the 20 A380s it had ordered in 2006, saying, These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time,” according to a spokesperson.

The news came after the A380s largest customer, Dubai-based Emirates, was said to be in talks to convert part or all of its order for 20 A380s made in 2018 into the smaller but newer A350 aircraft or A330neo aircraft.

Made after a prolonged bout of negotiations that stretched weeks after the Dubai Airshow in 2017, Emirates’ $16bn order was deemed life-saving for an aircraft that cost approximately $22bn to develop.

However, while the world’s largest capacity aircraft is crucial to Emirates’ plans to grow Dubai’s status as a hub, no engine manufacturer has been able to agree to the price and performance demands it deems crucial to making its A380 operations viable.

Emirates accounts for more than two-thirds of all 79 outstanding A380 orders after accounting for Qantas’ cancellation.

Ageing

“The A380s ordered last year look like they will be dumped. Emirates still has enough on order to replace ageing A380s that start to come off lease next year. Emirates is loathe to take more of the Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines on the A380 in the absence of either performance guarantees or penalties,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

“The A380 is also a total sales disaster and a massive cash drain or Airbus, and both Emirates and Airbus are likely to conclude its better off cancelling the order rather than Airbus suffer the pain of building more loss-making airplanes and Emirates ending up with a performance-choked machine.” it has no penchant for,” he added.

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Passengers travelling from Muscat suffer nosebleeds on Air India Express flight

Passengers on board an Air India Express flight suffered nosebleeds and ear pain due to loss in cabin pressure, forcing the flight to return to Muscat shortly after takeoff, reported Times of Oman.

The flight on Sunday, which had 182 passengers onboard, took off from Muscat International Airport at 2:45am and was headed to Kozhikode, India when it returned due to an “aircraft pressurisation problem” officials from the carrier said.

“The flight returned to Muscat immediately after the passengers complained of nose bleeding,” an Air India Express official said.

The Boeing 737-8 aircraft underwent several checks after a replacement crew and airplane parts were flown in from Thiruvananthapuram, India. It took off for Kozhikode at 2:18pm and landed at 6:54pm.

“After a delay of nearly 12 hours, the flight again started its journey for [Kozhikode],” a passenger said.

All passengers were treated by a doctor at the airport and were declared fit to travel.

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Saudi wealth fund plans San Francisco office in technology push

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is following its peers in Abu Dhabi by opening an office the US tech hub of San Francisco.

The Public Investment Fund is looking to open offices in San Francisco, as well as New York and London, Managing Director Yasir Al-Rumayyan said at a conference in Abu Dhabi.

“PIF is not going to be only in Riyadh. We are working on opening up in London and the US, initially in New York and San Francisco and any other cities we feel we should be closer to our business,” Al Rumayyan said.

Sovereign wealth funds in Gulf Arab states are seeking to plow some of their oil and natural gas billions into technology and communications to lessen their reliance on volatile crude markets and to bring home the businesses and skills that will help transform their economies.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co in recent years opened an office in Silicon Valley to focus on the technology industry.

The Public Investment Fund plans to have about 700 employees by the end of this year, up from 450, Al-Rumayyan said. It aims to boost that number to as much as 2,000 by 2025.

Al-Rumayyan added that the PIF is looking to bring vertical-farming start-up Plenty to Saudi Arabia The start-up is backed by Masayoshi Son’s Vision Fund, in which PIF is an investor.

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Investcorp, Standard Life plan to raise up to $1bn for Gulf fund

Bahrain’s Investcorp Bank and Standard Life Aberdeen plan to raise $800 million to $1 billion for a fund to invest in infrastructure in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The venture between the Bahrain-based alternative-assets manager and the Scottish firm’s Aberdeen Standard Investments unit will focus on healthcare, education and utilities. It may also invest in the wider Middle East and Levant.

“The GCC region has always benefited from significant availability of capital from the state,” Investcorp co-Chief Executive Officer Hazem Ben-Gacem said in an interview in Abu Dhabi. “Now with oil at half what it was a few years ago and the ambition of governments to diversify away from oil, the window is opening for private capital to play a bigger role in this area.”

The partnership comes as Investcorp pushes ahead with plans to boost assets under management to $50 billion through acquisitions and growth in its private equity, real estate and alternative investments units. Last month, it announced a $1 billion European buyout fund in partnership with Coller Capital.

Set up in 1982, Investcorp is the Gulf’s largest private investor in U.S. real estate and has charted a new growth plan after a shift in management in 2015. Abu Dhabi sovereign investment fund Mubadala Development Co. acquired a 20 percent stake in Investcorp in 2017 as part of its strategy to grow through partnering with other investment firms.

First Close

Investcorp expects to have a first close for the fund at about $250 million in the summer and reach its target size about 12 months later, Ben-Gacem said. Besides the region, there is interest from Asian investors in the venture as the Gulf carries the advantage of being an emerging market with dollar pegs, reducing currency risk, he said.

Investcorp is already evaluating deals and will announce its investments at the time of the first close — each of which would involve investing between $50 million to $80 million. It expects returns of between 11 percent to 14 percent, Ben-Gacem said.

“Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly be a big part of the fund given the plans to privatize a lot of healthcare assets over the next few years,” he said. “I hope this will be the first of many funds with Aberdeen, and all being well we could be back in the market for a second fund in a few years from now.”

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OSN to drop all sports channels except for cricket

OSN has announced it will retain only two cricket channels as part of its sports content portfolio.

CEO Patrick Tillieux was quoted in BroadcastPro to say that OSN will be “redirecting our investments from sports to content that our customers enjoy the most.”

Tillieux confirmed the broadcaster would no longer provide coverage of tournaments such as the US PGA or any other sport, saying, “Effective March 31, we will be closing some of our OSN-owned sports channels.”

OSN will refocus its service to more women-centric and premium programming content, he added.

“In the coming months, OSN will be delivering a new binge-watching channel, fresh monthly pop-up channels celebrating the biggest movie franchises, plus more curated lifestyle and women-centric shows,” he said.

“We are also in the process of refreshing our entertainment experience, which will enable viewers to discover their choice of content with ease and watch on their terms.”

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