STV eyes $1bln for second Middle East tech fund

Interest in the technology industry in the Middle East has increased the past few years as governments seek to diversify their energy-dependent economies

  
U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 8, 2021.

U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 8, 2021.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

RIYADH: STV, the venture capital arm of Saudi Telecom founded by ex-Google executive Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, is looking to raise at least $1 billion for its second Middle East technology investment fund, making it potentially the biggest fund of its kind in the region.

The company, which was formed in 2017, has started talks with other potential backers, including Middle East sovereign wealth funds and international pension funds and endowments, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The people chose to remain anonymous as the details of the fund remain private. STV declined to comment.

Interest in technology has grown significantly with most governments within the region seeking to diversify away from dependency on oil and investors seeking long-term opportunities.

IPOs in the region have also recently taken prominence with Adnoc Drilling coming to the market as the largest IPO on the Abu Dhabi stock market.

STV was an early investor in Careem, which was acquired by Uber in early 2020, and also invested in communications platform Unifonic, which received a $125 million infusion led by SoftBank Group’s Vision Fund 2 in September.

STV took part in 30 percent of all start-up funding rounds in Saudi Arabia and 20 percent in the wider Middle East in recent years, its CEO Abdelrahman Tarabzouni said in June.

Founded in 2017, it invested in 12 funding rounds in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East during the previous nine months, compared with seven rounds during the previous two years, Tarabzouni said.

The venture capital firm, which has a portfolio of $500 million, is considering launching a second fund to invest in the growth of emerging companies and lead advanced rounds in them, he said.

Studies conducted by STV showed that there is an opportunity to create 40 unicorn companies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Saudi Arabia will have the lion’s share of these companies.

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