Middle East online travel and hospitality market will outpace the global market by 17% over the next three years, with annual sales exceeding $100bln by 2022
The Middle East’s travel and tourism industry is expected to increase its spending on Internet of Things (IoT) technology by 22 per cent by 2022, according to data published ahead of the inaugural edition of Travel Forward, which will take place alongside Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2020 at Dubai World Trade Centre from April 19 – 22, 2020.
BLOM PMI in a renewed a Marked Deterioration in Business Conditions in December 2019
BLOM Lebanon PMI Registered a Marked Deterioration in Business Conditions in December 2019, but the Rate of Decline Eased from Last Month
The below-zero growth persisted during December 2019 and continued to be driven by November 2019’s sharpest deterioration in the private sector’s health. With a PMI standing at lows of 37 points in November 2019, economic growth lagged behind to close the year 2019 at approximately -0.5%. In its turn, December’s PMI registered a recovery from November’s all-time low, to stand at 45.1 points. However, it is worthy to note that the average PMI in 2019 retreated to 45.9 points, down from last year’s average of 46.3 points. As such, output and new orders remained most afflicted, standing at the respective 41.3 and 41.1 points, up from last month’s all-time low of 25.3 points each. Nonetheless, these sub-components remain subdued, weakening the private sector’s health amid continued national and regional political uncertainty.
In fact, BDL issued a new circular beginning December 2019 in attempts to avert the severe financial crisis, triggering three credit agencies to downgrade Lebanon’s credit and its banks’ as a result. To begin, on December 04th BDL reduced interest rates on deposits and issued a circular that instructed banks to pay the interest on foreign deposits as follows: 50% in Lebanese pounds and 50% in US dollars. These measures are to remain in-place for 6 months. It followed that the central bank’s action triggered further downgrades by 3 rating agencies. Moody’s downgraded the Standalone Baseline Credit of Bank Audi, BLOM bank and Byblos bank from Caa2 to “Ca” on December 11th, explaining that its action is consistent with “[BDL’s recent Circular which] constitutes a deposit default based on the agency’s own definitions.” Moreover, Fitch Ratings downgraded Lebanon’s long-term foreign currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) from CCC to “CC” by December 12th. The credit agency explained the mounting financial pressure on Lebanon as derived from the “ongoing political volatility […]; eroding confidence in the banking sector […]; BDL’s Circular which indicates the central bank is “failing to pay its obligations in full […] intensifying financial pressure[…]”, among other factors. It concluded, “a government debt restructuring or default is probable […]”. Lastly, S&P Downgraded Lebanon’s foreign and local-currency Issuer Credit Ratings to “Selective Default” on 3 Lebanese Banks (Audi, BLOM, BankMed) and Revised Lebanon’s BICRA Score Downwards on December 18th.
On the macroeconomic front, key parameters published over the period reflected a deepening recession.
The capital controls are still in place and continue to nurture a parallel market and rising inflation. The capital controls imposed by banks following the onset of civic protests in October 2019 are still in place, while average inflation reached 2.45% year-on-year (YOY) by October 2019. Even though inflation is still below October 2018’s 6.31%, it is expected to record upticks in the ensuing months of 2020, especially with capital controls staying in place.
Lebanon’s fiscal deficit narrowed by September 2019, yet gross public debt continued its uptrend. The cash-basis fiscal deficit decreased from $4.51B in Q3 2018 to $3.59B in 2019’s third quarter. The detailed data provided by the ministry of finance revealed an 8.3%YOY downtick in government spending which outweighed the 2.05% annual downtick in public revenues, to stand at $8.5B and $12.08B, respectively. On the counterpart, Lebanon’s gross public debt increased by 3.6%YOY to reach $87.09B by October 2019. In details, local currency debt (denominated in LBP) climbed by a yearly 12.2% to $54.57B. Correspondingly, domestic debt composed 62.66% of gross public debt, up from last year’s 57.88% of total, by October 2018. Meanwhile, total debt denominated in foreign currency fell by 8.11% year-in-year (YOY) to amount to $32.52B over the same period.
Key real sector parameters of the economy also reflected the significant uncertainty which was very apparent among this month’s PMI panel and respondents. The construction and real estate sectors were among the most afflicted by the financial and economic developments following October’s protests. As such, the total number of construction permits slumped by an annual 19.37% to 10,354 permits by November 2019 while the respective Construction Area Authorized by Permits also dropped by 32.06%YOY to 5.7Msqm. In tandem, the real estate (RE) sector performance remained weak, with the number and value of RE transactions recording annual slumps of 19.24% and 21.52% in the first eleven months of the year, to stand at 44,163 transactions worth $5.7B, down from 54,687 to stood at $7.3B by November last year, as per Cadastre.
In turn, auto importers continued to be substantially affected by the developments since October, given the people’s propensity to save rises in times of high uncertainty. The car market slumped remarkably, with the Association of Cars Importers (AIA) stating “The number of new cars registered during the month of November 2019 has dramatically dropped by 79% in comparison with the month of November 2018,” as it attributed the dramatic drop to recent procedures regarding capital controls. The total number of new registered cars hit an 11–year low at 22,528 cars. Despite a 12.1% annual drop in international average oil prices to $64.03/barrel, the number of total (passenger and commercial) registered new cars dipped by 31.5% year-on-year (YOY) by November 2019 which was 3.25 times the decrease recorded by November 2018 when the car market recorded the first decline since 2007.
November 2019 also witnessed a large Increase in the total number of Returned Checks. The latest statistics released by the Association of Banks (ABL) on cleared checks within the Lebanese financial system revealed a substantial increase in the month-on-month (MOM) and year-on-year (YOY) number of returned checks, attributed to the closure of banks from October 17th till Nov. 01st and the ensuing capital controls imposed, including ad hoc changes to clients’ overdrafts arrangements with their respective bank(s). As such, on a MOM basis, 81,782 checks worth $319.73M were returned in November 2019, composing 6.17% and 10.16% of the total value and number of returned checks, respectively. In comparison, returned checks in October 2019 totaled 16,427 checks worth $88.9M, thereby composing 2.87% and 3.08% of the total value and number of returned checks, respectively. Meanwhile, in November alone, the total value of cleared checks decreased by 3.5% to $5.2B, owing it partly to a 15.34% yearly downtick recorded in the value of cleared checks denominated in foreign currency to $2.9B. Meanwhile, the value of checks denominated in LP rose by a yearly 13.84% to settle at $2.2B in November 2019.
Egypt competition watchdog approves Uber acquisition of Careem with conditions
Egyptian regulators have approved Uber’s $3.1 billion acquisition of regional rival Careem after agreeing to a set of commitments proposed by the U.S.-based ride-hailing service meant to reduce harm to competitors.
The Careem acquisition was announced in March after more than nine months of stop-start talks between the two companies, handing Uber a much-needed victory after a series of overseas divestments.
The deal is expected to close in January, depending on regulatory approval in various territories of which Egypt is among the most significant. Egypt, with a booming population seen swelling to 100 million, is the biggest in the Middle East for ridehailing services.
Careem will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber but will continue to operate as an independent brand with independent management.
“We welcome the decision by the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) to approve Uber’s pending acquisition of Careem,” a spokesman for Uber said. “Uber and Careem joining forces will deliver exceptional outcomes for riders, drivers, and cities across Egypt.”
Just 7% of Middle East companies are tapping into $575 billion market
In today’s business landscape, innovation is power, and this time-tested ideology remains a cornerstone for successful companies. Now more than ever, there is an emphasis on using innovation to help organizatio
WeWork slipping into ‘negative spiral’ as IPO hopes dim
WeWork space in Beijing’s Sanlitun area.
The We Co.‘s planned initial public offering, once expected to be among the largest this year, is on hold until further notice, and some are questioning whether it will come to market at all.
Much of the hype surrounding the WeWork parent’s public debut has fizzled. In an effort to stem the tide of negative sentiment around the company’s unusual corporate governance structure, WeWork’s board this week pushed co-founder and Chairman Adam Neumann out of the CEO seat. The flare-up has reportedly even singed JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and other advisers to the company, who face potential reputational fallout for having pushed an estimated valuation of $47 billion or more with the offering. Critics say the company is worth only a third of that, at the high end.
“It is astounding that [the IPO] got this far before the train sort of jumped the tracks,” Joe Pagliari, clinical professor of real estate at The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, said in an interview. “They have a corporate governance structure, and conflicts of interest, that [are] just not acceptable for a public company. And the proof is, it’s being corrected right now. The price is coming down. Adam Neumann has been asked to step down. And the offering is being restructured.”
There is growing skepticism, meanwhile, about the viability of WeWork’s business model — leasing vast amounts of space on a long-term basis from landlords, then renting to smaller-scale tenants and some enterprise customers on a shorter-term basis — in an economic downturn, particularly in light of WeWork’s tenuous financial position. The company has spent huge sums in recent years to grow internationally, needs more working capital now, and is not yet turning a profit.
At a conference earlier this month, Jonah Sonnenborn, Access Industries Inc.‘s head of real estate, said WeWork’s dominance in the coworking field does not insulate it from failure.
“There’s this theory that they’re too big to fail,” Sonnenborn said of WeWork. “I don’t believe in that. I believe that anyone can fail.”
A ‘knife’s edge company’
In interviews, The University of Chicago’s Pagliari and other academics said it will be challenging for WeWork to pull off an IPO this year given the damage to investor confidence.
“I think [the IPO] is going to be challenging. It’s not going to be easy,” David Erickson, senior fellow and lecturer in the finance department at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “The question is, how do you de-risk it the best you can?”
Aswath Damodaran, professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business, called WeWork a “knife’s edge company,” one whose future is uncertain. “When you have a knife’s edge company and bad things start to happen, they very quickly start to spiral out of control,” he said, later adding, “The risk of it slipping into that negative spiral has increased substantially, because people have lost trust.”
Damodaran has estimated WeWork’s valuation at $14 billion, but he noted in an interview that that figure is contingent on the company raising capital on the order of billions of dollars over the next few years — a prospect that now seems daunting. He cited a critical lack of “self-awareness” on the part of WeWork’s management around the corporate governance issues and conflicts of interest, and said its relationships with established landlords will likely suffer.
“[WeWork] are now sitting across the table from somebody who’s much more skeptical about everything they say,” Damodaran said. “It’s going to show up in their operations. It’s going to show up in what they can and cannot do. And that can be very dangerous for a young company that needs capital to keep growing. If people don’t trust you anymore, then you don’t get the capital.”
Some have suggested that WeWork could bring REITs themselves on board as strategic partners, via private placements alongside the IPO. But David Harris, a longtime REIT market observer, said the prospect is not likely to appeal to many landlords.
“The issues are valuation and no profit in sight, so it’s hard to see how any REIT would be able to justify investing,” Harris said in an email. Such an investment likely would hinge on WeWork materially reducing its expansion plans and laying out a well-defined map to profitability, he added.
The bigger CRE picture
In the space of a few years, WeWork became a dominant tenant in many global office markets, and it is now the largest office tenant in New York City, according to Cushman & Wakefield. But Pagliari does not think the trouble surrounding WeWork’s IPO will substantially impact REIT valuations, or the valuations of the core properties that are home to WeWork locations.
“Maybe WeWork’s troubled IPO will have some adverse effect [in] New York City, but even that, I think, is a stretch,” he said.
NYU’s Damodaran said traditional commercial real estate and conventional real estate IPOs stand to benefit from WeWork’s troubles. The arc of the WeWork story suggests the real estate industry, which historically has been slow to adapt to vanguard trends and technology, is more difficult to disrupt than people thought, he said.
“It might actually be good news for the rest of the real estate business, because WeWork was … driving the business off tracks by being out there, by being so impressive at leasing properties,” he said. “It was actually making properties more expensive for the rest of the real estate business.”
WeWork did not return a request for comment for this story. JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.
Chris Hudgins contributed to this article.
This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.
temtem has raised Algeria’s largest Series A funding with $4M
temtem, the Algiers-based ride-hailing and transportation company, has raised
temtem will use the capital to accelerate growth and launch new products and services starting in 2019. A year after its seed round, temtem proves once again that it is able to convince investors and chose Tell Venture Automotive and private investors.
Today, temtem has all cards in hand to become the market leader in the Algerian mobility sector.
This new fundraising round confirms temtem’s competitive position, the relevance of its strategy, and investor confidence in its strong growth potential.
With this new capital, temtem, whose services cater to both consumers and corporates, will lunch two new innovative services centered around improving the daily lives of Algerians.
Since its inception in 2018, more than 200,000 clients have used temtem with a loyalty that demonstrates the quality of the client experience.
A few hundred corporate clients have also trusted temtem with improving the transportation experience of their employees to which temtem provides a full range of product such as private chauffeurs, delivery services, motorcycle ride-hailing, etc.
“We are going to first and foremost focus on increasing growth by diversifying our products, scaling up our marketing campaigns, in particular with the help of a major telecom company, and recruiting top talents. The goal is clear: to become the market leader” emphasized Kamel Haddar, temtem’s founder and Chief Executive Officer.
From now on, having meticulously analyzed its customers and partners’ expectations, and having contained its growth in order to control its development, the temtem team is ready to serve the ambitious vision of the company by entering a decisive phase of exponential growth.
Thus, to ensure the expected growth, a driver partner procurement mobile application (developed internally in Algeria) will be launched by the end of the month. temtem will then be able to ensure the rigorous selection of thousands of skillful partners, whose common goal – and this since the first recruit – is the safety of passengers and the quality of the delivered service.
Driver-partners’ status is a major concern for temtem, whose aim is to provide the best working environment possible for them: exclusive discounts on temtem, car insurance, after-sale service with car manufacturers, various benefits for their families, etc.
“Our drivers are the backbone of our business. It is essential to value them and give them concrete perspectives in their daily lives. This is also why our partners and their families will soon be able to subscribe to a dedicated health insurance,” says Kamel Haddar.
temtem’s data science team specifically focuses on modeling the use of its users with the goal of ever-improving the customer experience and to more precisely pinpoint market needs in order to better match them by the end of the year.
At the same time, temtem will strengthen its collaboration with strategic partners in the telecommunications and audiovisual industry. The goal is to democratize a unique service, already acclaimed by customers looking for a daily service with the best quality and at the best price.
temtem, an Algerian root, an African vision
temtem is also aware of the continent’s demographic stakes: the African urban population will double in the next 20 years, to reach the billion inhabitants in the cities in 2040.
According to the World Economic Forum, 25 to 45 percent of urban Africans walk to work because of the lack of affordable transportation.
Thus, the Algerian start-up plans to respond to this crying need for mobility by deploying its innovative services in other African countries.
“Algeria and Africa represent great opportunities of growth for temtem. We are delighted to team up with temtem to support its growth and help improve customer mobility” states Yacine Maireche, General Manager of Tell Venture Automotive.
A new round of fundraising is already initiated by Tell Venture Automotive to support growth in Algeria as well as in the African continent during the year 2020.
“International expansion has always been in temtem’s mid-term development outlook, once Algerian market’s impulses has been confirmed. temtem wants to respond concretely to urban public issues, such as the decongestion of cities in Africa, “says Kamel Haddar.
Dabchy, peer-to-peer Fashion Marketplace, Raises US$300,000 in Seed Funding
Founded by Amani Mansouri, Ghazi Ketata and Oussama Mahjoub in 2016, Dabchy now has a community of over 400,000 users in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, who use its web and mobile-based platform to buy and sell new (unused lying in one’s wardrobe), self-made, pre-owned (used) clothes and accessories for women and kids. Dabchy’s Android app has been downloaded over 100,000 times. “With this investment, Dabchy will accelerate its investment in product development, expand its team and regional footprint, and scale our platform to continue to make it easier for our users to buy and sell.” said Amani Mansouri, CEO of Dabchy, who has been lately featured by Forbes Middle East’s 30 under 30 list in 2019.
“At Dabchy, we operate as a trusted third between buyers and sellers and have facilitated more than 100,000 transactions to-date. Our ambition is to become the number one fashion marketplace in the region and to empower a new generation of women to become microentrepreneurs by creating their own businesses online and to take a lead role in sustainability.” Commenting on the announcement, Hasan Haider, Partner, 500 Startups said: “We’re pleased to back the team behind Dabchy and make this our first investment into the Tunisian market. What the team have managed to achieve so far has been amazing, and we look forward to Dabchy continuing to lead the way for used fashion online in North Africa. There is a significant market need and demand for the product, and that has already been demonstrated by their traction so far.”
Dabchy has already begun celebrating its achievements as a leading product. In 2019, Dabchy was the first Tunisian and African startup to join the European Fashion Tech Incubator,Look forward by Showroomprivé in Paris. The company also participated in the second cohort of Womentum, a women in tech accelerator by Womena in partnership with Standard Chartered.
In 2018, Dabchy.com was listed among the first 100 top African and Arab promising startups by IFC- International Finance Corporation and the World Economic Forum. In 2017, Dabchy joined the first acceleration cycle of Flat6labs, Tunis. Following the program, the company also launched Dabchy Kids that year. For the three venture capitalist firms, 500 Startups, Vision VC and Daal VC, Dabchy is their first investment in a Tunisian startup.
Kais Al-Essa, Founding Partner and CEO of Vision Venture said : “ We’ve been eyeing the North African market beyond Egypt specifically Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. This market is starting to boom and the community is your and tech savvy. Dabchy’s business model proved to be needed in the market with a limited investment, we expect it will dominate soon with further investment especially in the leadership of the talented Amani Mansouri”,
Emirates SkyCargo works with Dubai start-up for efficient sourcing of seafood
Early on Friday, 6 September, a batch of salmon arrived in Dubai in the cargo hold of Emirates flight EK 28 from Glasgow. The shipment of Scottish salmon, destined for restaurants and consumers in the UAE, was the first that was being transported for Seafood Souq, a Dubai based start-up working on transparent and efficient sourcing of seafood, by Emirates SkyCargo, the freight division of Emirates. The shipment marked the culmination of a round of discussions and the start of a fruitful partnership between the two companies.
Seafood Souq has created an online B2B marketplace application that helps seafood buyers procure products from all over the world. In addition to streamlining the traditional model of sourcing seafood, the application also allows for improved quality and traceability of the produce being transported. Better information sharing facilitated by the platform means that there are likely to be fewer instances of mis-labelling and expiry of seafood.
Seafood Souq have entered into a partnership with Emirates SkyCargo for transporting their seafood shipments rapidly from source markets to customers. Although the initial focus is on delivering fresh seafood from markets such as Norway, Cyprus, Chile, USA and Scotland to customers in the UAE and the Middle East, the start-up has plans to harness the potential of Emirates SkyCargo’s global network to reach a global clientele.
“The core aim of Seafood Souq is to provide access to fresh products in the quickest possible time by connecting customers to suppliers and allowing produce to be dispatched on the day that the order is received. Working with Emirates SkyCargo was the naturally obvious choice for us because of the network and frequency of flights offered by them,” said Sean Dennis, CEO and Co-Founder of Seafood Souq. “Not only does Emirates SkyCargo have a good frequency of flights into all the key global origin and destination markets for seafood but they also have the cool chain infrastructure and capabilities that allows seafood to retain its freshness during the journey,” he added.
“We are excited to be working with Seafood Souq and to be supporting an innovative Dubai-based start-up having the potential to transform the supply chain for the seafood industry,” remarked Dennis Lister, Emirates VP Cargo Commercial Development. “Our Emirates Fresh product is designed for the rapid and efficient transport of seafood and other perishables. With our modern aircraft and other equipment including dedicated Emirates Fresh Cool Dollies, Emirates White Covers and a state of the art hub in Dubai with extensive cool chain facilities, we are well positioned to support Seafood Souq as they continue to grow.”
Emirates SkyCargo transported over 400,000 tonnes of perishables across the world in 2018 out of which more than 70,000 tonnes was seafood. Some of the major origin markets for seafood on Emirates SkyCargo in 2018 included Norway, India, Sri Lanka, Uganda and the UK.
Emirates SkyCargo currently uses cargo hold capacity in Emirates’ fleet of more than 265 aircraft, including 12 freighters– and provides air cargo services to over 155 destinations across six continents.
Amazon Web Services looks to expand its operations in the Middle East
Amazon Web Services, more commonly known as AWS, has recently said that it sees huge potential in the Middle Eastern market after a large number of its partners showed interest in the region.
AWS currently has 69 centers in 22 locations globally and back in July, it added the Middle East to this list when it opened 3 data centers in Bahrain.
The Vice President for Worldwide Public Sector Businesses AWS, Teresa Carlson, expressed AWS’ interest in the region and her hopes of growth there. She said, “the Middle East region is already doing very well and we have every indication that this will be very successful for us … [It will be] one of our top-performing regions.”
AWS has not only invested in the infrastructure of the data centers in Bahrain but also invested a huge sum in the land, networking, utilities and employees’ divisions. According to Ms. Carlson, AWS will be offering around 30,000 jobs globally, and many of these positions will be offered to Middle Eastern professionals.
AWS has also announced the launch of a computing degree program with the University of Bahrain to train the local talent in the field of cloud computing. The program will be the first of its kind in the region.
In July, Bahrain’s data centers went live and 36 of AWS’ global partners initiated their operations in the region. The creation of jobs is not just limited to the vacancies at the data centers, but it also includes the jobs created locally due to the influx of these firms in the region.
Cloud computing is on a rise around the world due to an increase in digitization of industries and security is one of the reasons why firms are shifting to cloud computing.
More and more institutions, public and private, are adopting cloud computing. Sael Al Waary, who is deputy group chief executive at Bank ABC in Manama spoke about how AWS has helped the bank in improving its business strategy. He said “using AWS solutions, we have been able to adopt a sustainable digital business strategy that includes modernising, evolving and disrupting our traditional banking operations.”
AWS has recently been taking steps to make its services more inclusive for the Middle Eastern community. One of these steps was the introduction of Arabic to Amazon Polly, a service that converts text to speech.
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