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Network International enters Saudi Arabia with $10m investment, aims for 100% Saudization
RIYADH: Network International, an enabler of digital payments in the UAE, has entered the thriving Saudi market with an initial $10 million investment and hopes to generate close to $50 million annually in revenues.
“We expect to deploy an initial capital investment of around $10 million,” Network International Managing Director in Saudi Arabia Abdulaziz Al-Dahmash told Arab News.
“We have invested over half of that already. This investment funds the deployment of our technology platform and on-boarding of customers using cloud-based software services recently made available in the Kingdom.
“The availability of cloud-based software services has also significantly accelerated our time to market and will enable rapid future scalability.”
He added that the medium-term revenue target of the company is $50 million per annum. “We already generate some revenues in the Kingdom and are also on-boarding a new customer, so we expect revenue generation this year in the single-digit million range, rising to double-digit in 2023.”
Network International has recently opened an office in the Kingdom and plans are afoot to hire more people in the country.
“We expect to hire initially 30 people in the Kingdom over a six-to-12 month period and foresee this becoming a significant leading hub for our Middle East business. We initially target approximately 60 percent of staff to be Saudis,” Al-Dahmash explained, adding: “Our aspiration is to have this business fully managed and operated by Saudi nationals. We are committed to the Kingdom in developing local talent and bringing the best-of-breed payment technology services.
Network International has started the year strongly with a 33 percent year-on-year growth in the first quarter revenues driven by a 22 percent annual increase in UAE domestic payments processed and a 120 percent rise in international payments processed during the same period.
Domestic Total Processed Volumes and international TPV now stand at 20 percent and 9 percent, respectively, ahead of the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2019, reflecting a strong rebound in tourism.
“We continue to see improvements in consumer spending as well as an increase in the number of international visitors in our home market of the UAE, which has accelerated growth in both domestic and international TPV,” Network International Group CEO Nandan Mer told Arab News.
“It is exciting to note that our market entry into Saudi Arabia is progressing well. Our offering continues to generate interest in the Kingdom and our new processing customer signed only two months ago, is already in the process of onboarding. Overall, the growth in the period is evidence of successful delivery on our strategic objectives and a solid foundation for the year ahead.”
Al-Dahmash elaborated more on the new goals of the company in Saudi Arabia. “As a new entrant in the Kingdom, our biggest challenge is likely to be scaling our market position, which is normal for a new market entry,” he said. “The outsourcing of payment processing activities remains nascent, with operations conducted largely in-house by banks and financial institutions. We will be seeking to partner with these institutions as they begin to outsource their digital payments operations.”
Al-Dahmash explained that Network International is already building a pipeline of potential customers and recently signed a new customer in Saudi Arabia.
The company has been eyeing the Kingdom for the past couple of years, but COVID-19 travel restrictions and other factors prevented it from foraying into the region earlier.
The company’s largest segment by revenue is the Middle East, which includes the key markets of the UAE and Jordan. Network International also provides services in more than 40 countries in Africa, including the major markets of Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2019, and Mer talks excitedly about this experience.
“The IPO (initial public offering) was a very exciting transition for Network International. The company was founded or was extracted as a department from a bank, and we needed to be specific. And, then over time, we grew quite nicely and acquired few entities in the region, assimilated those entities into one single corporate structure and eventually listed on the London Stock Exchange,” he added.
“The LSE attracts premier investors in emerging markets and industries like ours worldwide,” Mer stressed. “So I have to say it was the right place for the firm to get more clients.”
He added: “Most of our investors have been quite stable and have stayed on the journey with us over the last couple of years. They have supported us in our investments, both organic and inorganic. So, we are very grateful to our shareholders.”
Mer talked about the interest that followed the company’s listing on the London Stock Exchange.
“The enthusiasm for the sector obviously is enthusiasm for a newly listed company to start with,” he said. “And then, over a period of time, some questions about our journey were specifically raised by one of the acquisitions that we have. Those questions have been answered quite robustly, and we are looking forward to an upward journey in the future.”
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