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AMTD: Five Asian Fintech companies have been selected to receive investment

Ranine Awwad

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AMTD Five Asian Fintech companies have been selected to receive investment

The AMTD Singapore Solidarity Fund has awarded five Asian Fintech companies with funding – a total of $8.4 million. In a statement released on September 14, 2020, The AMTD announced it has chosen to invest in Fintech platforms spanning across artificial intelligence, SME financing solutions, insuretech, cross-border payment platform, and card payment solutions. Fintech platforms are Funding Societies, Active.ai, Cardup, Transwap, and PolicyPal.

The money belongs to AMTD Asean Solidarity Fund Group which has an initial capital of S$50 million dedicated to supporting FinTechs registered on the API Exchange Platform in the region during the Covid-19, according to Finance Magnates.

Calvin Choi, Chairman and CEO of AMTD Group said “AMTD is proud to support the Fintech community in Singapore, witnessing the resilience and embracing opportunities in its Fintech and innovation sectors. AMTD will leverage Singapore’s deep talent pool, its multidimensional capital market, and bring in AMTD’s global connectivity and our SpiderNet ecosystem to anchor and support the long-term development and sustainability of the local FinTech ecosystem”, according to Finance Magnates.

Moreover, Supriya Sen, Independent Director and Chairperson of the Investment Committee at AFIN added in the statement “We are very pleased that the Solidarity Fund has already received more than 40 applications from FinTech and innovation companies, encompassing a wide range of use cases in payments, InsureTech, WealthTech, RegTech, credit scoring, Chatbot, SME lending, and digital assets across different ASEAN countries with Singapore as a regional hub”. In addition, Supriya Sen said, “We went through a rigorous process of selection, out of which these 5 FinTech companies have been chosen for the first batch of proposed investments.”

While securing financial support for Fintech, AMTD will offer these companies open access to its one-stop digital platform and SpiderNet ecosystem to empower entrepreneurs and maximize the user experience and digital offering to Asian consumers and SMEs, states FinTech news.

Back to August 13, 2020, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the new three-year plan with $182.1 million aiming to boost support for large-scale innovation projects and scale up FinTech skillsets in the City-state, according to ZDNet. The MAS plan has a special focus on Artificial Intelligence (Al). The authority has signed 33 FinTech Co-operation Agreements with international counterparts including Australia, Canada, China, and the United Kingdom.

Singapore is one of the world’s top four financial centres. The country’s financial technology landscape continues to grow. As of September 2019, Singapore was named the home to 45% of FinTech companies in ASEAN, according to UOB Group.

Ranine joined Inside Telecom as an Investigative Journalist. Her extensive fieldwork and investigations shed light on many socio-economic issues. Over the past few years, she has transformed her key findings into in-depth analytical reports. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication.

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Binding agreement from Iliad to acquire Polish operator Play

Karim Hussami

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Binding agreement from Iliad to acquire Polish operator Play

Having 41 million subscribers in three of Europe’s largest telecom markets – France, Poland and Italy, Iliad announced its intention to acquire the Polish telecom operator Play for around €2.2bn.

Iliad and Play share a similar success story as the most recent entrants in the mobile market of the three major European countries.

Iliad, the French provider of telecommunication services, signed a binding agreement to purchase a 40% controlling interest from Play’s two reference shareholders for the same price, meaning the step would give the telco a large portion of the decision-making.

Through this acquisition, Iliad will cement its position as a pan-European telecom player and says that, “Its expertise and experience will help Play grow in the mobile market and facilitate its entry into the fixed market. Iliad will also help accelerate the digital distribution of Play’s offerings. All of these developments will be carried out drawing on the skills of Play’s management teams.”

While the deal allows Iliad to maintain its financial and strategic flexibility, it remains subject to obtaining clearance from the relevant regulatory authorities.

With 38 million inhabitants, Poland is central Europe’s largest market, therefore, the acquisition represents a unique opportunity for Iliad to grow and enter the Polish telecom market.

Thomas Reynaud, Iliad’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “This excellent alliance constitutes a new growth driver for the Iliad Group and gives it access to one of Europe’s high-potential telecom markets. Pooling the expertise of Play’s and Iliad’s teams will reinforce the Iliad Group’s fundamentals through a combination of growth and innovation. The transaction will make Iliad the sixth-largest telecom operator in Europe. Fully committed to implementing its Odyssey 2024 Plan, Iliad is a solid group that is pursuing its expansion with confidence.”

Jean Marc Harion, the Chairman of Play’s Management Board, said: “This alliance with the Iliad Group marks an important chapter in Play’s history, as it will accelerate its business development in fixed services. Play and Iliad share the same values and overall corporate vision. Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved the deal, firmly convinced of its strategic fit and value creation potential for Play’s shareholders.”

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From Sand Dunes to Flying Taxis: Everything You Need to Know about Saudi Arabia’s Neom Mega-City

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Saudi Arabia’s Neom Mega-City

“A start-up the size of a country,” is how Saudi Arabia’s futuristic mega-city Neom is being described by Saudi officials, investors, contractors and the like.

The city will take up a whopping 10,000 square miles of rocky desert and empty coastline in the country’s remote northwest Tabuk province, where the kingdom will look to attract the world’s brightest and best.

However, the seaside of the northwestern province was considered so barren that the only identifiable resources were sunlight and an infinite supply of salt water.

Yet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman didn’t see a coarse wasteland when he landed in his helicopter there years ago. But a future where human civilization and progress can be propelled forward in every sense of the word.

What is Neom?

Neom is a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning “new,” and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for “future.”

With a price tag of more than $500 billion, as well as seeking foreign investments to fully foot the bill of its ambitious goals, the project is expected to be a crossover between Silicon Valley’s innovations, Hollywood’s entertainment aura, mixed with a French Riviera vacation spot.

Neom will be 33 times the size of New York City and nearly the size of Belgium, more than one million people will work and reside within it and will include a number of towns, ports, and research centers.

“The city will drive the future of human civilisation, energy and water, mobility, biotech, food, technological and digital sciences, advanced manufacturing, media and entertainment,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz described the project to reporters.

What this means for the Kingdom

According to reports by Al Arabiya, Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman and Neom CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr signed the memorandum of understanding in several energy fields as of late August.

This shows the kingdom’s relentless push and unwavering willingness to achieve the monumental goals they’ve set for themselves as put forth through its 2030 Vision; as well as diversifying Saudi Arabia’s economy away from its dependency on oil and more into renewable energy and human capital.

“We all hope that as citizens, the Neom project will accomplish all its goals and on time…and if we want to do so, we have no choice but to be up to the work and ambition required for this project,” Prince Abdul Aziz told reporters.

Neom aims to produce 15 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030, which is equivalent to a quarter of the country’s electricity consumption at peak times, the minister added.

Neom, which is coastline bordering Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt aims to lure serious international investments to make it the number one destination for both work and pleasure worldwide.

This futuristic mega-city, however, isn’t the only plan on the horizon. The kingdom will also look to push multibillion-dollar plan to erect a handful of new cities in the hopes of kick-starting the country’s economy into the future.

The developments include a sports and entertainment city outside Riyadh, luxury tourism resorts spread across an archipelago of pristine Red Sea islands and an ancient Arabian trading post turned wildlife reserve called al-Ula.

Infrastructure

From an infrastructure perspective, Neom Co., the developer of the smart-city, has chosen US-based engineering and construction firm Bechtel to design, build, and manage the construction efforts of its transportation, as well as its power and water infrastructures.

“Neom is one of the most complex projects in living memory and we are proud to be part of it. The vision for a futuristic, innovative and sustainable ecosystem is unique and bold, and we believe Neom will change the way new cities are developed by future generations,” Brendan Bechtel, Chairman and Chief Executive of the family-owned company, said in a press release.

Bechtel has long experience of working with the kingdom, beginning with the construction of the Trans-Arab Pipeline in 1947.

In addition, Neom Co. also signed a number of contracts with Saudi telecom company STC to establish and lay the ground work for a 5G network, as well as a $5bn partnership with US-based Air Products and Saudi ACWA Power to develop the world’s largest green hydrogen and green ammonia plant, to be operational in 2025.

While in parallel, Aecom has also been awarded a contract to work the city’s general design, alongside a plethora of environmental and geotechnical support.

“We are excited to be playing such a pivotal part in delivering one of the world’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects,” said Lara Poloni, president of Aecom in a press release.

She added that with Neom being the centerpiece of Saudi Vision 2030, it will become one of the world’s leading destinations to attract talent and investment and drive economic change in the kingdom.

Hollywoodesque Features

Seeing that Neom will be constructed in one of the world’s driest climates, the city’s architects are planning to draw on “cloud seeing” technology to create artificial clouds, producing more rainfall than naturally possible in the desert.

Also, plans have surfaced that include the construction of an artificial mood drone that would light up during night-time, as well as showcasing live-streamed images of outer space.

The project also aims at constructing a Jurassic Park style island filled with a myriad of robot dinosaurs, alongside a vast stretch of glow in the dark sand on its coastline.

It’s estimated it will take around 7 to 10 years to finish the project.

This smart city will aim to lead the world when it comes to healthcare, education by using holograms to give classes and quality of life.

At the moment, there’s nothing but golden sands and gorgeous coastline on the Saudi stretch of the Red Sea, and currently construction is underway to build an airport and resort.

What about Covid-19?

This is where the uphill battle begins.

The kingdom suffered harshly due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after introducing tourist visas for the first time back in September, the country was forced to close its borders to the most vital source of tourism income: religious visitors.

While Saudi Arabia’s economy is the biggest in the Arab world, the country has been hit hard by coronavirus. The kingdom has also had to deal with falling oil prices sparked by an acrimonious dispute with Russia.

However, steps taken by the Saudi government to keep the momentum going has been accelerated showing a strong fortitude toward getting the job done regardless of any hurdle that may come along.

Despite the difficulties ahead, the kingdom will see to it that the Neom dream will not turn into a distant mirage within the covid-19 era.

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Huawei will invest 475 million baht to support new 5G EIC in Thailand

Ranine Awwad

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Huawei will invest 475 million baht to support new 5G EIC in Thailand

The United States of America has been pushing countries around the world to ban Huawei from participating in the deployment of its core 5G network. Despite losing many 5G markets, the company has been increasing its presence in Southeast Asia. In fact, Huawei Thailand announced it will invest 475 million baht to establish a 5G EIC (ecosystem innovation center) at the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) in Bangkok.

In partnership with the Thailand Ministry of Digital Economy and Society MDES and The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa), Huawei will conduct research on how to use the fifth-generation network across different industries such as medical care, agriculture, remote learning and security. The project aims to accelerate digital transformation with 5G, cloud, and Artificial Intelligence. The 5G Ecosystem innovation center is expected to incubate 100 startups in the next 3 years. Moreover, it is expected to create new business opportunities for Small Medium Enterprises.

During the opening ceremony that was held on September 21, 2020, DES minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta said, “This is an important milestone demonstrating the readiness of Thailand to be a digital hub in Asean by utilizing 5G technologies to improve economic and social development”. As part of his keynote speech entitled, “Incubating 5G Ecosystem to Support the Digital Transformation of Thailand 4.0”, Punnakanta said that commercial 5G will be available in the next few months.

The 5G ecosystem innovation center set to be opened in Thailand is the first such launch in ASEAN, said Deng, chief executive of Huawei Thailand, according to Bangkok Post. On the other hand, the center can help fight against pandemics. “Thailand takes a crucial step toward moving into a new socio-economic era. Thailand is among the first countries in ASEAN to be on track to adopt 5G technology, which not only offers innovative services and seamless experiences but is also reshaping all industries toward digitalization. This is one of the Prime Minister’s and the government’s greatest priorities,” said Minister Punnakanta, according to Bangkok Post.

Depa aims to train 500 workers and support 20 startups. The agency is ready to collaborate with mobile operators across Thailand to support the project, avowed Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin, President and Chief executive of Depa. “Depa’s mission is to drive Thailand towards the digital economy. Thailand 5G EIC will bring together an international alliance network to drive Thailand digital innovations in the long run. Collaboration between Depa and leading global companies like Huawei in establishing the 5G EIC will greatly enrich the [5G] ecosystem,” he added, according to The National Thailand.

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