MENA telecoms giant Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has set up a venture capital arm to finance start-up SMEs operating in the IT and telecoms sectors in the Middle East, and has chosen pan-European growth investor Iris Capital to manage the vehicle.
Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with a workforce of 25,000, STC is the largest telecommunications company in the Middle East and North Africa, based on market capitalisation, total revenue and number of employees, and was recently ranked in the top 20 mobile networks in the world. In total, the group provides integrated mobile, fixed and broadband communications services to more than 142 million customers.
STC will invest an initial amount of $50m, making it the only investor in the fund at this stage. Other local and international companies will be invited to invest in this fund at a later stage, it said.
Eng Saud bin Majed Al Daweesh, STC Group CEO, said, “The establishment of this fund comes as part of the kingdom’s strategic direction and its drive to transform to a knowledge-based economy by enriching the spirit of both initiative and innovation. This investment is an affirmation of the group’s belief in the various opportunities available in this field as well as being a logical step for the group to have first hand access in new technologies and modern services and enter into new partnerships to diversify its revenue base in regional markets. Doing so will maintain its market leadership in the telecommunications sector regionally.”
Antoine Garrigues, a managing partner at Iris Capital, added, “We are very proud to have been selected by STC as fund manager. STC Ventures creates the leading VC player in IT and communication in the Middle-East region. This represents a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of venture capital development in a very dynamic and fast growing region.”
Iris Capital is based in Paris and Düsseldorf and specialises in new media, communication, IT and internet services sectors. Since its inception in 1986, the team has invested more than €900m in more than 200 start-ups in 18 European countries, as well as in North America.
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