A 30 per cent stake in Rubicon, which has grown to become the Middle East's largest animation workshop, was sold to GrowthGate Capital, a private equity fund based in Bahrain.
A 30 per cent stake in Rubicon, which has grown to become the Middle East's largest animation workshop, was sold to GrowthGate Capital, a private equity fund based in Bahrain.

Animated success for Jordan



Region A Jordanian animation studio has received a multimillion-dollar investment from a regional private equity fund in another success for the country's community of technology entrepreneurs. A 30 per cent stake in Rubicon, which has grown to become the Middle East's largest animation workshop, was sold to GrowthGate Capital, a private equity fund based in Bahrain.

The investment is the second major success for Jordan's technology industry, following Yahoo's acquisition of the Maktoob web portal in August, estimated at more than US$75 million (Dh275.4m). The deal was seen by many of the country's entrepreneurs and venture capitalists as the beginning of an internet boom in the Arab world, centred on the many start-up web businesses based in Amman. Randa Ayoubi, the founder of Rubicon, said the company's current owners and management aimed to keep running the business, but a full acquisition by a larger player was a real possibility.

"That's the million-dollar question. Having worked on this for so many years, I would like to see it become substantial on a global scale," she said. "We'll play it by ear and, if three years down the line, someone can manage this better, then so be it. For now, we are concentrating on growth and cementing these huge acheivements." Rubicon is currently working with MGM Studios in the US to produce an animated television series based on the Pink Panther franchise of films.

It is also involved in production ventures with studios in India and the Middle East. It also produces a range of educational content that is used by schools in Jordan, Oman, Algeria and Morocco. "Our market will grow because people are becoming more and more aware of the need for Arabic-language content," Ms Ayoubi said. "As the need grows for the young generation to have content in their language, so will the demand for what we can do."

The value of the transaction was not disclosed, but Rubicon said it expected more than $100m in revenues next year and would spend at least $75m in the next three years on boosting its output. The company aims to one day compete with Pixar, the animation studio that was acquired by Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006. For the time being, it said it would focus on co-production and forming partnerships with other media companies looking to produce films and TV shows.

GrowthGate, which has invested in regional businesses ranging from aviation to construction and logistics, said the growth opportunities both within the Arab world and globally made Rubicon an attractive investment. "The leadership, vision and experience of the CEO and senior management, coupled with the projects pipeline, sealed the deal for us," the company said. GrowthGate stressed that it was not interested in acquiring management control of Rubicon. "Control is a balanced act in regional companies," it said.

"The founders and visionaries should have sufficient elbow room to execute strategy, while the non-executive owners should have proper oversight on material and other game-changing matters." Ms Ayoubi said Jordan was a natural location for knowledge-based businesses such as her own, which now employs almost 400 people. "Jordan is the right place for any business that depends on skilled, talented young people," she said.

"This is a country where education means a lot, and unlike many of our neighbours, we have no natural resources. So people have to really make something of themselves if they want to succeed." tgara@thenational.ae

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

Types of policy

Term life insurance: this is the cheapest and most-popular form of life cover. You pay a regular monthly premium for a pre-agreed period, typically anything between five and 25 years, or possibly longer. If you die within that time, the policy will pay a cash lump sum, which is typically tax-free even outside the UAE. If you die after the policy ends, you do not get anything in return. There is no cash-in value at any time. Once you stop paying premiums, cover stops.

Whole-of-life insurance: as its name suggests, this type of life cover is designed to run for the rest of your life. You pay regular monthly premiums and in return, get a guaranteed cash lump sum whenever you die. As a result, premiums are typically much higher than one term life insurance, although they do not usually increase with age. In some cases, you have to keep up premiums for as long as you live, although there may be a cut-off period, say, at age 80 but it can go as high as 95. There are penalties if you don’t last the course and you may get a lot less than you paid in.

Critical illness cover: this pays a cash lump sum if you suffer from a serious illness such as cancer, heart disease or stroke. Some policies cover as many as 50 different illnesses, although cancer triggers by far the most claims. The payout is designed to cover major financial responsibilities such as a mortgage or children’s education fees if you fall ill and are unable to work. It is cost effective to combine it with life insurance, with the policy paying out once if you either die or suffer a serious illness.

Income protection: this pays a replacement income if you fall ill and are unable to continue working. On the best policies, this will continue either until you recover, or reach retirement age. Unlike critical illness cover, policies will typically pay out for stress and musculoskeletal problems such as back trouble.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

Panipat

Director Ashutosh Gowariker

Produced Ashutosh Gowariker, Rohit Shelatkar, Reliance Entertainment

Cast Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Kriti Sanon, Mohnish Behl, Padmini Kolhapure, Zeenat Aman

Rating 3 /stars

The Crown season 5

Stars: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Jonny Lee Miller, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Salim Daw and Khalid Abdalla

Written by: Peter Morgan

Rating: 4/5 stars

Tips on buying property during a pandemic

Islay Robinson, group chief executive of mortgage broker Enness Global, offers his advice on buying property in today's market.

While many have been quick to call a market collapse, this simply isn’t what we’re seeing on the ground. Many pockets of the global property market, including London and the UAE, continue to be compelling locations to invest in real estate.

While an air of uncertainty remains, the outlook is far better than anyone could have predicted. However, it is still important to consider the wider threat posed by Covid-19 when buying bricks and mortar. 

Anything with outside space, gardens and private entrances is a must and these property features will see your investment keep its value should the pandemic drag on. In contrast, flats and particularly high-rise developments are falling in popularity and investors should avoid them at all costs.

Attractive investment property can be hard to find amid strong demand and heightened buyer activity. When you do find one, be prepared to move hard and fast to secure it. If you have your finances in order, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Lenders continue to lend and rates remain at an all-time low, so utilise this. There is no point in tying up cash when you can keep this liquidity to maximise other opportunities. 

Keep your head and, as always when investing, take the long-term view. External factors such as coronavirus or Brexit will present challenges in the short-term, but the long-term outlook remains strong. 

Finally, keep an eye on your currency. Whenever currency fluctuations favour foreign buyers, you can bet that demand will increase, as they act to secure what is essentially a discounted property.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone