Fortnightly, 18 September 2019

Fortnightly, 18 September 2019

September 18, 2019


18 September 2019
18 Elul 5779
19 Muharram 1440




1.1  Finance Ministry Plans to Cancel VAT Exemption on Online Imports
1.2  Bank of Israel Warns of Potential National Insurance Institute Bankruptcy


2.1  Zoomd’s Continues Its International Expansion with Toronto IPO
2.2  Stoke Raises $4.5 Million in Seed Funding to Bring the Open Talent Economy to Businesses
2.3  Stage Fund Acquires Cymmetria
2.4  Syte Raises $21.5 Million in Series B Funding to Accelerate Global Expansion
2.5  Syte Raises $21.5 Million in Series B Funding to Accelerate Global Expansion
2.6  OurCrowd Expands U.S. Operations and Opens Office in Chicago
2.7  Polytex Technologies Receives Major Investment from Fortissimo Capital
2.8  Tipa Closes a $25 Million Growth Financing Round
2.9  BigID Raises $50 Million to Help Companies Comply With Global Privacy Regulations
2.10  Snyk Raises $70 Million to Accelerate Dev-first Security
2.11  Cyber Risk Modeling Company Kovrr Raises $5.5 Million
2.12  vHive Raises $5.5 Million in Series A Funding, Led by Octopus Ventures
2.13  Foresight Signs Agreement with Leading Chinese Infrared Camera Manufacturer
2.14  Finistere, OurCrowd, Tnuva & Tempo Launch “Fresh Start” FoodTech Incubator
2.15  Trigo Raises $22 Million A Round to Enable More Grocery Retailers to Battle Amazon Go
2.16  Igentify Raises in $10.5 Million in Funding Round


3.1  Kuwait’s Largest Law Firm Signs Collaboration Agreement with Andersen Global
3.2  Dubai’s Numu Capital Invests in Medical Tourism Facilitator Doctoorum
3.3  Foloosi Raises $500,000 in Most Recent Funding Round
3.4  Saudi Arabia’s Pharmaceutical Sector to be Worth over $10 Billion by 2023
3.5  Norwegian Firm Plans to Create First Salmon Farm in Saudi Arabia


4.1  Electric Buses Deployed on Jerusalem’s Streets
4.2  UAE’s Masdar Partners with UK Government to Invest in New Tech Fund
4.3  How Abu Dhabi Plans to Reduce Energy Consumption by 2030


5.1  Lebanon’s Balance of Payments Records a $5.32 Billion Deficit in July 2019
5.2  Number of Total Registered New Cars in Lebanon Dropped by 24% in August 2019
5.3  Jordanian Unemployment Continues to Rise Unabated

♦♦Arabian Gulf

5.4  Food Consumption in the GCC Growing to 60.7 Million Tonnes by 2023
5.5  Arab Middle East Defense Spending Forecast to Total $100 Billion in 2019
5.6  UAE Healthcare Sector Outlook 2019-2023
5.7  UAE Approves Nutrition Labelling Plan to Help Curb Obesity Rates
5.8  Baskin Robbins Leads as the UAE’s Most-Loved Fast Food Brand
5.9  Medical Tourism Sales in the UAE Increased by 5.5% in 2018
5.10  New Deal Aims to Make Abu Dhabi a Top Medical Tourism Destination
5.11  Dubai FDI on US Mission to Chase More Foreign Investment
5.12  Saudi Oil Production Cut in Half Following Drone Attacks

♦♦North Africa

5.13  Egypt’s Foreign Reserves Reach a Record $44.96 Billion
5.14  Morocco is the 2nd Largest Wine Exporter in Africa


6.1  Turkey’s Annual Inflation Rate Falls to 15% in August
6.2  Turkish Exports Rise by 1.7% in August
6.3  Turkey’s Biggest Firm to Halt Steel Production on Demand Slump
6.4  Greece’s Jobless Rate Falls to 16.9% in the Second Quarter
6.5  Greek Tax Revenues Over Perform in First Eight Months of 2019



7.1  Israel’s Election Results Pending Final Count
7.2  TAU Among World’s Top 10 Universities Producing Entrepreneurs, Startup Founders


7.3  Construction Begins on $272 Million in New Schools in Abu Dhabi
7.4  Moroccan Universities Rank Poorly in the World University Rankings 2020
7.5  Only Two Turkish Universities Ranked Among the World’s Top 500


8.1  NRGene Advanced Technology Joins the Amazon Web Services Partner Network
8.2  EarlySign’s Machine Learning Algorithm Predicts High-Risk Cardiac Patients Following Discharge
8.3  PolyPid Announces Completion of $50 Million Series E-1 Financing
8.4  Wize Pharma Enters Exclusive Agreement for Ophthalmic Gene Technology
8.5  CorNeat Vision Completes Pre-clinical Phase for Synthetic Cornea and Scleral Patch
8.6  Assuta Ashdod Medical Center Deploys MedAware’s Patient Safety Platform
8.7  CollPlant Biotechnologies Closes on $5.5 Million Financing
8.8  Rootella Mycorrhizal Inoculants Registered for Commercial Use in Canada
8.9  Endospan Enters Into Strategic Distribution Agreement with CryoLife
8.10  Baxter Acquires Cheetah Medical to Expand Specialized Patient Monitoring Portfolio
8.11  Can-Fite & Univo Pharmaceuticals to Develop Cannabinoid-Based Pharmaceuticals
8.12 Raises $60 Million in Series C Funding and Receives FDA Clearance
8.13  Redefine Meat Raises $6 Million Round Led by CPT Capital for its 3D Alt-Meat Printer
8.14  Equinom Beefs up Plant-based Meat Products
8.15  Kanabo Joins Forces with CiiTECH to Launch Targeted Terpene Formulas
8.16  Tarsius Pharma Granted €2.4 Million by EU to Support First-in-human Clinical Trial for TRS01
8.17  Horizon 2020 Program Backs Filterlex’s Embolic Protection Device – CAPTIS
8.18  Canadian Hospital Specialties to Distribute Eitan Group’s Sapphire Infusion Systems in Canada
8.19  SofWave Medical’s Low-divergence Ultrasound Technology Receives FDA Clearance


9.1  Universal Electronics Selects SecuriThings for Cyber Security for Connected Devices
9.2  ISI and Balcony are Leading the Revolution in Situational Awareness on Demand
9.3  SafeRide Technologies’ CAN Optimizer Unlocks Value of Connected Vehicle Data
9.4  ColorChip Introduces Ultra-Compact RGB Pico-Projector for SmartGlasses Applications
9.5  Guardicore & Mellanox Deliver Agentless Micro-Segmentation in Data Centers
9.6  Otonomo is Collaborating with Microsoft to Transform the Driving Experience
9.7  Primis Introduces Closed Captions
9.8  Valens Unveils Ultra-High-Speed Automotive Chipset with 16 Gbps Bandwidth
9.9  Octopai’s Automated Business Glossary Creates a Common Language Across Departments
9.10  Ingram Micro Teams With ITsMine For AI Based Data Loss Prevention
9.11  Elbit Systems Introduces Vehicular Anti-Drone Protection and Neutralization System


10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Rises by 0.2% in August
10.2  Israel’s Economy Grew by 3.6% in First Half
10.3  Foreign Exchange Reserves at the Bank of Israel in August 2019 Over $119 Billion
10.4  Immigration to Israel Increases by 21% in 2019


11.1  JORDAN: Ratings Affirmed At ‘B+/B’; Outlook Remains Stable
11.2  SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia has a New Energy Minister – What it Means for Oil
11.3  TURKEY: Crisis-Hit Turkey Suffers Erosion in Investments


1.1  Finance Ministry Plans to Cancel VAT Exemption on Online Imports

The Ministry of Finance is seeking to eliminate the VAT exemption on personal imports of products.  According to Globes, the proposal to cancel the exemption on imports of products up to $75 will be part of a package of measures in the proposed 2020 state budget to provide NIS 20 billion missing in the budget.  The measures will be presented to the minister of finance appointed in the next government.  The Ministry of Finance plans to bring the budget for cabinet approval in December, and to complete approval of the budget bill by the Knesset by March.  Assuming that the cabinet and the Knesset approve the proposal, based on the planned timetable, elimination of the exemption will become effective around April.

The volume of purchases exempt from VAT was most recent increased in early 2012 in response to the social protest against the cost of living in the summer of 2011.  As of now, a delivery containing products with an aggregate value of up to $75 is completely exempt from VAT and customs duties.  There are nevertheless a number of exceptions.  The exemption does not apply to tobacco and alcohol, and does not include packages sent from the same supplier to the same customer at intervals of less than 72 hours.

The significance of canceling the VAT exemption for the budget will only grow in the coming years.  The volume of VAT-exempt imported products is currently estimated at NIS 3 billion a year, and the market is rapidly growing.  In recent years, the volume of goods purchased online from abroad by Israelis has increased by 20% a year annually in recent years.  This means that eliminating the VAT exemption will generate NIS 600-700 million in tax revenue, starting in 2020.

The ecommerce market in Israel was estimated to be worth NIS 13 billion in 2018 and is projected to growth to NIS 20 billion in 2023.  The Israel Postal Company estimates that 70 million packages ordered from overseas will be delivered by the end of 2019.  Ecommerce is estimated at NIS 2.3 billion in the fashion sector alone.  (Globes 15.09)

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1.2  Bank of Israel Warns of Potential National Insurance Institute Bankruptcy

Israel’s National Insurance Institute will be bankrupt in 2050 and will require a government bailout but it would be better if it intervened sooner, the Bank of Israel’s Research Department has found.  This forecast is markedly later than those presented in previous discussions held in the public sector with some suggesting that the National Insurance Institute could be bankrupt by 2037.  This latest analysis is based on a model integrating the demographic forecasts of the Central Bureau of Statistics, a long-term growth model developed at the Bank of Israel, and statistical analyses of the development paths of various allowances and of National Insurance Institute contributions based on past trends.

The Bank of Israel found that annual expenditure on National Insurance allowances is expected to increase gradually in the coming four decades, to as much as an additional 0.8% of GDP.  In a more plausible scenario, in which past trends in allowances’ growth continue, old-age and child allowances, as well as the ceiling for income subject to National Insurance contributions, are indexed to the average wage in the economy rather than to the CPI, and which assumes a moderate rise in the retirement age – an identical increase is expected.

The Bank of Israel concluded that despite the long time until the point in which cash flow gaps are expected in National Insurance Institute financing, there is considerable benefit in enacting the adjustments required to balance the system at an earlier time.  If the government only makes the necessary adjustments in 2050, an immediate adjustment of 0.8% of GDP will be required.  This means a reduction of 40% in old-age and survivors’ allowances.  In contrast, beginning the adjustments in 2021 can reduce the size of the annual adjustment to 0.4% of GDP, meaning a reduction of only 10% in benefit payments.  Similarly, an adjustment through increasing the National Insurance Institute contributions can be more moderate, as it will be spread over more citizens and a longer period.  (Globes 15.09)

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2.1  Zoomd’s Continues Its International Expansion with Toronto IPO

Zoomd has successfully completed a public offering raising CA $9.27 million at price of CA $1 per share and commenced trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange Ventures under the ticker ZOMD.  The offering was managed by A-Labs Finance & Advisory and co-led by Canadian bankers including Haywood Securities, Eight Capital and Paradigm Capital.  Zoomd is the first-of-its-kind site search, mobile user-acquisition and retention platform offering one solution for both online publishers and advertisers looking to increase content monetization via higher user engagement.

Since merging with Moblin in 2017, the company has demonstrated aggressive growth, tripling its revenues and profitability.  Zoomd is currently working with clients in more than 80 countries, including major worldwide companies such as Poker Stars Group, Shein, bWin (GVC Group), FoxNews, 90Min, Alibaba Group, Wowcher, TikTok, ComScore, NHN and many more.

Herzliya’s Zoomd‘s business is the monetization of on-site search and distribution of mobile sites and apps.  Zoomd Publisher’s business has a specific focus on leveraging on-site search data to increase monetization results and extend average session length.  Zoomd Advertiser’s business has a specific focus on mobile apps user acquisition.  Zoomd has built a key performance indicator-based algorithm that enables intelligent media buying in a manner that improves the accuracy of consumer targeting.  Zoomd provides advertisers the ability to acquire new users, while understanding better the needs of their target audience in almost every existing mobile inventory via a smart platform that connects to more than 600 digital media channels under one unified dashboard, reducing advertisers campaign management resources drastically.  (Zoomd 04.09)

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2.2  Stoke Raises $4.5 Million in Seed Funding to Bring the Open Talent Economy to Businesses

On-Demand talent platform Stoke has raised $4.5 million to help companies access the growing talent pool of self-employed freelancers and contractors and manage this flexible workforce at scale.  The seed round was led by TLV Partners with participation from Bogomil Balkansky (former VP Cloud Recruiting Solutions at Google), Flatiron Health founder Zach Weinberg, Boaz Chalamish (CEO of Clarizen), and others.

Stoke’s talent-on-demand platform will enable companies to find, hire and manage freelancers at scale.  Stoke will provide organizations with a management platform for their existing external workforce, as well as integrate with popular online freelancer marketplaces, enabling Stoke users to search these sites in from Stoke’s own unified interface and easily on-board new people.

Tel Aviv’s Stoke solves the problems companies face managing an agile workforce.  The founders’ experience managing departments in large technology companies including senior positions at Mercury / HP, VMWare and Microsoft.  They experienced the challenges of hiring and managing a modern, flexible freelance workforce.  (Stoke 04.09)

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2.3  Stage Fund Acquires Cymmetria

Denver’s Private equity turnaround and growth firm, Stage Fund, announced the acquisition of Cymmetria.  Cymmetria is a premier CyberSecurity deception platform on the market with offices in Tel Aviv and Denver.  Stage Fund will work with the Cymmetria team to bolster their research and development activities in Tel Aviv while growing a powerful sales and marketing machine out of the new headquarters in Denver.  With the support of the Stage Fund team, Cymmetria is poised to grow and take hold of the burgeoning Cyber Deception market.

Tel Aviv’s Cymmetria is a cybersecurity company at the forefront of deception technology.  Cymmetria’s deception products, MazeRunner and ActiveSOC, give organizations the ability to hunt attackers, detect lateral movement inside the perimeter, automate incident response and mitigate attacks.  The company also offers deception as a service, enabling organizations to customize deception technologies for their business environment.  (Stage Fund 04.09)

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2.4  Syte Raises $21.5 Million in Series B Funding to Accelerate Global Expansion

Syte has raised $21.5 million in Series B funding led by Viola Ventures and joined by high profile investors, Storm Ventures, Commerce Ventures and Axess Ventures.  All previous investors also participated in the round, bringing Syte’s total funding to $30 million to date.  Syte has led the retail industry’s adoption of Visual AI technology, by providing the most accurate visual AI on the market, according to Microsoft.  Their camera solution allows shoppers to take a picture of a product that inspires them and search for all visually similar products within a retailer’s site.  The company’s roster of clients includes Farfetch, Marks & Spencer, boohoo, and Tommy Hilfger.

Syte also now offers Recommendation Engines, In-Store solutions such as Smart Mirrors and In-Store Stylists, as well as Deep AI Tagging to assist in product attribution tagging.  With this round of funding, the company plans to further extend their offering to include Visual AI powered personalization.

Syte reports it has opened its New York City office this past July and will establish a San Francisco location later this year.  The company is also planning to hire 70 new team members for 2020 in their US and Tel Aviv offices to support their growing clientele and facilitate their anticipated 300% revenue growth in the coming year.

Tel Aviv’s Syte is a Visual AI technology provider that empowers retailers to tap into the personal inspiration of individual shoppers and deliver the right products at the right time, using the most accurate artificial intelligence on the market.  Founded in 2015, Syte has raised $30 million from investors.  (Syte 09.09)

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2.5  MyHeritage Acquires Promethease and SNPedia

MyHeritage announced the acquisition of SNPedia and Promethease, through acquiring the company that owned and operated them, River Road Bio.  This marks the 10th acquisition by MyHeritage and reinforces the company’s position as a global leader in consumer genomics. was launched in 2006 and is a wiki that contains a broad, community-curated knowledge base linking between genetic variants and medical conditions, as well as traits, citing over 30,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications. is a literature retrieval service.  It allows consumers to upload their raw DNA data (from services such as, 23andMe and others) and automatically compare it to SNPedia to see relevant scientific findings regarding their genome.  People who wish to take a genetic health test or receive health reports are encouraged to purchase the MyHeritage DNA Health+Ancestry test, which is based on clinically validated genetic markers and robust scientific research.

Or Yehuda’s MyHeritage is the leading global discovery platform for exploring family history and gaining valuable health insights.  With billions of historical records and family tree profiles, and with sophisticated matching technologies that work across all its assets, MyHeritage allows users to discover their past and empower their future.  Launched in 2016, MyHeritage DNA has become one of the world’s largest consumer DNA databases, with more than 3 million people, and it is about to grow further following the acquisition of Promethease by MyHeritage.  (MyHeritage 07.09)

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2.6  OurCrowd Expands U.S. Operations and Opens Office in Chicago

OurCrowd announced the opening of a new office in Chicago, Illinois.  This will mark OurCrowd’s 3rd U.S. location and the 12th dedicated location worldwide.  OurCrowd’s new Midwestern office’s activities will include the growing community of Chicago and Midwest investors, bringing new companies onto the OurCrowd platform, and leveraging the investor network on behalf of OurCrowd’s portfolio companies.

OurCrowd currently has 33,000 individual accredited and institutional investors, family offices, and venture capital partners from over 183 countries.  The platform expects to add thousands of new US investors while increasing US deal flow by partnering with VC funds and helping Israeli startups enter the US market.  OurCrowd recently announced having topped $1.1 billion of committed funding, and investments in 180 portfolio companies and 18 venture funds.

Jerusalem’s OurCrowd is a global venture investing platform that empowers institutions and individuals to invest and engage in emerging companies.  The most active venture investor in Israel, OurCrowd vets and selects companies, invests its capital, and provides its global network with unparalleled access to co-invest and contribute connections, talent and deal flow.  OurCrowd builds value for its portfolio companies throughout their lifecycles, providing mentorship, recruiting industry advisors, navigating follow-on rounds and creating growth opportunities through its network of multinational partnerships.  (OurCrowd 05.09)

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2.7  Polytex Technologies Receives Major Investment from Fortissimo Capital

Polytex Technologies has received a major investment by private equity fund Fortissimo Capital.  Fortissimo, a leading Israeli private equity fund that invests primarily in technology and industrial companies with high growth potential, made a major investment in Polytex Technologies.  Hadera’s Polytex Technologies, established in 2003, is a world-leading developer and manufacturer of advanced, easy-to-use systems for garment management in hotels, healthcare institutions, fitness centers and manufacturing sites.  The patented Polytex system is a fully automated solution for distribution, retrieval and management of folded garments, workwear, linen, towels and PPE.  (Polytex 05.09)

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2.8  Tipa Closes a $25 Million Growth Financing Round

Hod HaSharon’s TIPA, a leading developer and provider of fully compostable flexible packaging solutions, has secured $25 million in its recent financing round.  Investors who participated in this financing round include Blue Horizon Ventures, Triodos Organic Growth Fund and existing investors Chestnut and GreenSoil Investments.

As global demand for viable alternatives to conventional plastic soars, this new investment round will enable the company to continue its growth, expanding its sales in new territories, and to further develop its portfolio of unique packaging solutions.  TIPA was founded with the vision of offering sustainable packaging solutions that break down and return to nature, and are glad to continue expanding as we offer a patented technology to leading brands all over the world.

Inspired by nature, TIPA’s compostable packaging solutions are designed to break down within months under compost conditions just like any organic matter, such as orange peels.  TIPA packaging provides solutions for the food and fashion industries, and is built to fit existing machinery and supply chains.  The company’s packaging solutions are currently being implemented worldwide by leading global brands in Europe, Australia, and the US.  (TIPA 09.09)

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2.9  BigID Raises $50 Million to Help Companies Comply With Global Privacy Regulations

BigID raised $50 million in Series C funding to help enterprises comply with global privacy regulation and meet their data protection needs.  Bessemer Venture Partners led the round, with participation from existing investors Fund, Comcast Ventures, Boldstart Ventures, Scale Venture Partners and ClearSky, as well as new investor, Salesforce Ventures.  BigID has now raised nearly $100 million in the last 18 months and has 150 employees globally.  The new funds will help BigID meet the growing demand for its technology, expand global sales and engineering and introduce new products for data privacy, data governance and protection.

BigID is the first data intelligence platform that helps organizations get detailed insight into what and whose data they collect and process.  Using BigID’s suite of products, enterprises can find, classify, inventory and map all their sensitive data and automate critical data privacy, protection and governance tasks like personal data rights and data sharing.  BigID’s AI tools allow companies to comply with global data privacy regulations and be better privacy stewards for their customers.

Based in New York and Tel Aviv, BigID uses advanced machine learning and identity intelligence to help enterprises better protect their customer and employee data at petabyte scale. Using BigID, enterprises can better safeguard and assure the privacy of their most sensitive data, reducing breach risk and enabling compliance with emerging data protection regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act.  (BigID 05.09)

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2.10  Snyk Raises $70 Million to Accelerate Dev-first Security

Snyk announced the company raised $70 million investment, led by Accel and existing investors GV and Boldstart Ventures, to further boost their growth and leadership in the dev-first security market.  After a year that saw revenue exceeding 4x growth and the acquisition of DevSecCon, the new funding will be used to fuel the company’s ambitious growth plans that include further product development, expanding global resources and community investment to bring their developer-first security solutions to even more development teams and enterprise organizations.  Investors included Accel, Boldstart Ventures and GV.

Tel Aviv’s Snyk was founded on the belief that developers will embrace security given the right solution. Four years later, they’ve seen that vision become reality, with hundreds of thousands of developers using our solutions to secure their containers and applications.  Snyk has reached a number of major milestones since the last round of funding.  The global user community has expanded to more than 300,000 developers worldwide, and Snyk’s customer base grew dramatically – by 200% in 2019. Added to this, more than 90% of Snyk’s customers originate from inbound and product-led opportunities.  (Snyk 09.09)

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2.11  Cyber Risk Modeling Company Kovrr Raises $5.5 Million

Kovrr, a Tel Aviv based predictive cyber risk modeling company, announced a $5.5 Million financing round.  The round was led by StageOne Ventures and Mundi Ventures, with participation of Banco Sabadell and other private investors.  The proceeds will be used for product development as well as to further accelerate the company’s global growth.  Kovrr was founded in 2017 in order to give underwriters, exposure managers and risk professionals the unparalleled visibility they need to keep up with a rapidly changing cyber risk landscape.

Today, the company provides the world’s leading insurance carriers, reinsurers & government regulators with an end-to-end platform that delivers transparent, data-driven insights that enable them to quantify and manage their affirmative and silent cyber risk exposures across all lines of insurance.  Kovrr accurately quantifies potential financial loss caused by various types of cyber events.  The platform uses open-source, proprietary and third-party business and threat intelligence data to train predictive cyber risk models.  (Kovrr 10.09)

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2.12  vHive Raises $5.5 Million in Series A Funding, Led by Octopus Ventures

vHive announced a $5.5 million investment led by Octopus Ventures, with participation from existing investors StageOne Ventures and private investors.  This funding will support vHive’s mission to expand its customer base and accelerate growth as well as to further develop its technology leadership.  Since its seed investment, vHive has attracted Fortune 500 companies who use its software platform across a variety of industries and geographies.  vHive has enabled its customers to conduct thousands of drone surveys in industries such as cell towers, construction, insurance and rail.

Herzliya’s vHive is the global software provider to enterprises, accelerating their continuous digital transformation, enabling them to make better decisions based on accurate field data and analytics.  vHive is the only software solution that enables enterprises to deploy autonomous drone hives to digitize their field assets and operations.  vHive is making an impact in a variety of industries including communication towers, construction, insurance and rail by dramatically cutting operational costs, generating new revenue opportunities and boosting employee safety.  (vHive 11.09)

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2.13  Foresight Signs Agreement with Leading Chinese Infrared Camera Manufacturer

Foresight Autonomous Holdings signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Wuhan Guide Infrared Co., a $2.7 billion Chinese corporation traded on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.  Guide Infrared, through its subsidiary Global Sensor Technology, develops, manufactures and markets infrared thermal imaging systems.  According to the agreement, the parties will cooperate in the development, marketing and distribution of Foresight’s QuadSight vision system, incorporating Guide Infrared’s solutions, to potential customers in Greater China.  For the purposes of such cooperation, the parties will consider establishing a joint venture in China, thus leveraging each party’s competitive strengths.  The parties intend to determine other material terms of collaboration in a future agreement.  Furthermore, pursuant to the agreement, Guide Infrared will consider a strategic investment in Foresight.

According to the agreement, Guide Infrared will connect Foresight to the company’s network of Chinese vehicle manufacturers (OEMs), Tier One suppliers, and commercial vehicles and heavy machinery customers.  In addition, Guide Infrared will promote the QuadSight system through exhibitions, conferences and technological demonstrations, and will position Foresight as its official business partner and Tier One customer within Greater China.  Both companies will cooperate to optimize the performance of Guide Infrared solutions incorporated into Foresight’s QuadSight system by developing technical hardware and software solutions to cope with all weather and lighting conditions; and developing optical safety solutions targeting Chinese automotive market requirements.

Ness Ziona’s Foresight Autonomous Holdings, founded in 2015, is a technology company engaged in the design, development and commercialization of sensors systems for the automotive industry.  Through the company’s wholly owned subsidiaries, Foresight Automotive and Eye-Net Mobile, Foresight develops both “in-line-of-sight” vision systems and “beyond-line-of-sight” cellular-based applications.  (Foresight 13.09)

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2.14  Finistere, OurCrowd, Tnuva & Tempo Launch “Fresh Start” FoodTech Incubator

 In a ceremony in Kiryat Shmona on 11 September, Finistere Ventures, a global agrifood investment leader, OurCrowd, Israel’s most active venture investor, Tnuva, Israel’s largest food manufacturer, and Tempo Beverages, the leading Israeli beverage company formally launched their NIS 1 Billion “Fresh Start” FoodTech Incubator.  The consortium, who won the tender to operate the FoodTech incubator from the Israel Innovation authority in June 2019, will invest in over 40 advanced technology startups that will drive the food industry.

The incubator will focus on advancing Food Technologies along the entire chain of the food and beverage industry, specifically in the following fields: milk and protein substitutes; improving nutritional value and personalized nutrition; innovative raw materials; smart food packaging; cannabis and Industry 4.0, including IoT, AI and Big Data.

Tnuva and Tempo, two of Israel’s leading food and beverage companies already have existing operations in Northern Israel and will utilize this existing stronghold on the local food industry to advance the incubator’s efforts.  Global food giants PepsiCo, Bright Food and Heineken will be actively involved in the incubator offering their rich experience in research and development, innovative prowess, as well as their access to global markets.  The incubator will also work alongside leading research and academic institutions in northern Israel, including the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shmona, the Tel Hai College, the Northern Research and Development and others.

The consortium “Fresh Start” is currently reviewing several startups, with the aim of accepting its first company by the beginning of 2020.  The consortium will operate the Fresh Start incubator over the next eight years with the goal of supporting approximately 40 startups.  It is expected that Fresh Start will invest NIS 200 million in direct operational costs and in investments in the startups.  The consortium will also take the lead on attracting follow on investments at an estimated NIS 800 million provided by partners in the consortium, venture capital funds and global companies.  (OurCrowd 12.09)

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2.15  Trigo Raises $22 Million A Round to Enable More Grocery Retailers to Battle Amazon Go

Trigo raised $22 million in an A Round led by growth fund Red Dot Capital with the participation of existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel and Hetz Ventures.  The funds will enable the company to scale the technology for even larger store sizes (currently at 2X the footprint of Amazon Go), and advance its partnerships with leading US and European grocery retailers.  Trigo is currently installed in stores as large as 5,000 square feet, the largest checkout-free stores in the world.

Tel Aviv’s Trigo is already partnering with a number of global grocery chains including leading European chains and Israel’s largest grocer – Shufersal, which will be deploying Trigo’s technology in 280 stores over the next 5 years.  Trigo has raised $29 million in total funding to date.

Trigo’s computer-vision system uses advanced AI and algorithms to identify and record items grabbed by shoppers while they are in the store.  The company’s unique 3D space-mapping technology can be retrofitted into existing stores and enables consumers to spend their shopping time simply picking up the items they need – not waiting in long checkout lines and avoiding any kind of scanning activity altogether. Shoppers can be billed automatically or may pay cash or card.  Trigo’s system allows shoppers to personalize their in-store experience by giving them the option upon arriving at the store to either “opt in” by identifying themselves via a loyalty program, effectively allowing the retailer to gain insights on their purchases; or “opt out” by choosing not to check-in and having an “unidentified experience”.  Shoppers will still enjoy the same benefits of the checkout-free experience either way.  (Trigo 16.09)

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2.16  Igentify Raises in $10.5 Million in Funding Round

Genetic analysis startup Igentify has raised a $10.5 million funding round led jointly by life sciences venture capital firm aMoon and equity crowdfunding company OurCrowd Management through its digital health investment fund OurCrowd Qure.  The new round brings the company’s total equity raised to date to $12 million.  Founded in 2016 and based in Haifa, Igentify develops a digital genetic testing analyzer for various genotyping technologies like microarray and next-generation sequencing (NGS), and also offers machine-generated personalized genetic counseling.  The company’s technology is currently being used at several medical facilities, including Israeli hospitals Sheba Medical Center and Kaplan Medical Center and New York-based nonprofit integrated healthcare network Northwell Health.  Igentify intends to use the funding to continue product development, for further commercial expansion, and to hire an additional 10 developers for its Haifa office.  (Igentify 17.09)

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3.1  Kuwait’s Largest Law Firm Signs Collaboration Agreement with Andersen Global

San Francisco based Andersen Global announced that it has signed a collaboration agreement with Kuwait’s largest law firm, Al Khebra.  The addition of Al Khebra marks the 50th country with a legal services practice among the member and collaborating firms of Andersen Global. Andersen Global has nearly 400 professionals in 10 countries and more than 20 locations in the Middle East region.

Al Khebra, based in Kuwait City, has nearly 50 legal and tax professionals and five partners provide numerous legal services throughout the Middle East.  The firm’s legal practice areas include corporate and commercial, M&A, private equity, partnerships, tax, banking and finance, real estate, venture capital, investments, restructuring and employment.

Andersen Global is an international association of legally separate, independent member firms comprised of tax and legal professionals around the world.  (Andersen Global 10.09)

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3.2  Dubai’s Numu Capital Invests in Medical Tourism Facilitator Doctoorum

Dubai based Numu Capital announced its investment in Doctoorum.  The deal was actually closed a few months ago during the graduation of Doctoorum from the AUC Venture Lab accelerator.  Medical Tourism is on the rise globally and it’s expected to reach $180 billion by 2026.  The GCC is one of the top ranked regions in terms of outbound medical tourism and countries like Jordan, Egypt and Morocco are becoming increasingly popular as inbound destinations.  Doctoorum is planning to expand its operations beyond Egypt & MENA region to include destinations such as Turkey, India, Germany and Thailand.

Cairo’s Doctoorum is currently ramping up their growth and is expected to raise a Series A round in the next few months.  Numu Capital usually invests in startups to help them increase their traction, and secure the next funding round.  The fund’s unique value proposition to entrepreneurs is its friendly and quick deal cycle; which usually takes less than 30 days from initial pitch to wiring the funds to the startup’s bank account.  (Doctoorum 05.09)

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3.3  Foloosi Raises $500,000 in Most Recent Funding Round

Foloosi, a Dubai based Fintech startup facilitating consumer-to-business card payments by enabling the business to display QR code, Payment Link and API integrations for the customer to scan & pay conveniently, has raised $500,000 in seed funding from existing investor Rasheed Alfalasi, along with new investor Mohammed Alsuwaidi.  Some four months back Foloosi has raised a pre-seed fund from Angel fund investor Rasheed Alfalasi.

Foloosi was founded in 2018 and launched its product in the year 2019 that enables simple and easy way to accept, process, disburses payment solution for businesses.  It helps businesses by providing payment gateway, payment link, subscriptions and POS software.  Foloosi’s payment solutions can be integrated by both web and mobile applications.  Foloosi connects merchants with customers while giving an easy way to make payments.  They see solid interest from businesses in the UAE for this service, with the transaction volumes reliably growing at above 40% month-on-month.  Transacting millions of dirhams of sales every month was a key achievement for us as the business keeps on growing.  The startup has achieved over one million AED revenue rate at the end of July 2019 and over 300 businesses signed up to accept card payments and over 2000 users paid through Foloosi to partner businesses.  Foloosi supports over 150 currencies for international digital payments, including major currencies like USD, Euro, UK Pound and INR.  (Foloosi 04.09)

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3.4  Saudi Arabia’s Pharmaceutical Sector to be Worth over $10 Billion by 2023

The rapid growth of Saudi Arabia’s pharmaceutical market is attracting notice, as the latest industry data reveals it is expected to be valued at $10.74 billion by 2023.  According to new research ahead of the event, the kingdom’s pharmaceutical market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.5% until 2023.  Saudi Arabia is one of the largest pharmaceutical markets in the Middle East, and its expansion over recent years can be attributed to a growing population, an increase in non-communicable diseases and strong state support for health services, with major government investment in new hospitals and clinics.”

According to UN figures, Saudi’s population stands at an estimated 34 million, 32% of which are under 14 years and is growing at around 2% annually.  Life expectancy has increased from 69 years in 1990 to over 75 years today.  In addition, the country has seen a rise in non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and obesity, which tend to require long-term treatment and medication.  Many of these diseases are a consequence of poor lifestyle choices, but alarmingly over 35,000 children have been diagnoses with Type 1 diabetes placing the kingdom in the top four countries worldwide in terms of incidence.

At present pharmaceuticals manufactured overseas continue to account for the majority of the market – with around just 20% of the drugs consumed in the country made locally.  The government has implemented long-term development strategies in a bid to promote local medicines.  (AB 14.09)

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3.5  Norwegian Firm Plans to Create First Salmon Farm in Saudi Arabia

Vikings Label, a company majority-owned by Norwegian investors, is planning to set up Saudi Arabia’s first salmon farming-project, with an aim to supply Saudi consumers with as much as 5,000 tons of the cold-water fish each year by 2023.  The facility will cost about $90 million, and the company is seeking $25 million of that from investors.  So far, one Saudi investor – Hani Al-Saleh, CEO of transportation services company Arabian Hala – has pledged funds to the project.  Vikings Label is also in talks with Saudi banks and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund.

Seafood companies like Vikings Label see growth opportunities in Saudi Arabia, which is increasingly promoting healthy lifestyles and eating habits as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s broader strategy to overhaul the economy and transform society.  Aquaculture is one of the businesses where Saudi officials hope to attract investment.  Vikings Label would be the country’s first salmon farm, according to the government’s National Fisheries Development Program.  The company hopes to start building fish tanks and other aquaculture facilities north of Jeddah in the first quarter of next year.  Saudi authorities want to almost double per capita fish consumption in the country to 13 kilograms (29 pounds) by the end of 2020 and to 22 kilograms – the global average – by 2030.  That’s an ambitious target for a nation where lamb dominates palates, and heart ailments and diabetes are common.  (AB 11.09)

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4.1  Electric Buses Deployed on Jerusalem’s Streets

On 4 September, ten electric buses began operating in Jerusalem as part of the implementation of a government initiative to reduce air pollution in Israel’s capital city.  The buses were added to the 15 line which runs from the Central Bus Station to Talpiot.  The Ministry of Environmental Protection gave the Egged bus cooperative a NIS 4 million subsidy to purchase the electric buses, which have zero pollution emissions, less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions than diesel buses, and quieter operation.  The drivers of the electric buses have been specially trained for their operation and will be the only ones permitted to drive them.  A designated parking lot with charging stations was established in the Egged parking lot near the Ramot Junction in Jerusalem.  The buses were imported from China, where most of the world’s electric buses are manufactured.  (INN 05.09)

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4.2  UAE’s Masdar Partners with UK Government to Invest in New Tech Fund

UAE-based clean energy giant Masdar and the UK government have invested £70 million ($86.3 million) in a new fund to grow green technologies in the United Kingdom.  The UK Treasury launched a £400 million fund (CIIF) to bolster Britain’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, with the first £70m provided by Masdar and the UK government – allocated for 3,000 charge points.  This more than doubles the number across the UK to 5,000.  The fund is managed by London based Zouk Capital.  (AB 10.09)

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4.3  How Abu Dhabi Plans to Reduce Energy Consumption by 2030

On 10 September, the Abu Dhabi Department of Energy (DoE) unveiled a new strategy that aims to reduce electricity consumption by up to 22% and water consumption by 32% by 2030.  The nine core DSM programs include building retrofits, demand response, efficient water use / re-use, building regulations, street lighting, district cooling, standards & labels, energy storage, and rebates & awareness.

With Abu Dhabi’s energy demand projected to increase steadily over the next decade and consumption rates projected to increase by 1.4% each year until 2035, energy efficiency and rationalization present key solutions to energy and climate change concerns.  In the context of Abu Dhabi, a rising population and growing economy have been the key factors driving the increase in peak power demand which grew by an average of 8.3% per year between 2007 and 2017.  The growth in demand has largely come from a range of industrial and business sector activities and increased exports to the smaller Northern Emirates.  (AB 10.09)

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5.1  Lebanon’s Balance of Payments Records a $5.32 Billion Deficit in July 2019

According to the Central Bank of Lebanon, Lebanon’s Balance of Payments (BoP) witnessed a deficit of $5.32 billion by July 2019 compared to $757.2 million deficit recorded during the same period in 2018.  The Net Foreign Assets (NFA) of BDL and commercial banks dropped by $2.59 billion and $2.73 billion by July 2019.  It is worth mentioning that the BoP recorded a monthly surplus of $72.5 million in July 2019 alone, compared to a deficit of $548.9 million in July 2018.  In fact, the NFAs of BDL recorded an increase of $691.1 million, while the commercial banks’ NFAs declined by $618.6 million in July 2019.  (BDL 01.09)

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5.2  Number of Total Registered New Cars in Lebanon Dropped by 24% in August 2019

The slump in the Lebanese car market persists in the first 8 months of 2019, as the number of new registered commercial and passenger cars retreated from 25,153 by August 2018, to stand at 19,151 cars by August 2019, according to the data provided by the Association of Lebanese Car Importers (AIA).  The breakdown of the AIA’s statistics revealed that the number of newly registered passenger cars dropped by 23.18% year-on-year (y-o-y) to settle at 18,165 cars.  In turn, the number of new registered commercial vehicles contracted by a yearly 34.62% to 986 cars.  According to the BlomInvest Bank, the top selling brands were Kia, Nissan, followed by Toyota and Hyundai which grasped the respective shares of 15.28%, 11.2%, 10.77% and 10.63% of total newly registered passenger cars.  (AIA 11.09)

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5.3  Jordanian Unemployment Continues to Rise Unabated

Jordan’s unemployment rate registered a 0.5% increase at the end of this year’s second quarter, currently standing at 19.2%.  The Department of Statistics (DoS) reported that the unemployment rate for men stood at 17%, compared with 17.2% for women, noting increases of 0.5 and 0.4% respectively in comparison with the same period of last year.

Unemployment among university-degree holders also registered an increase, standing at 25.9%.  The unemployment rate for those who have completed their secondary education or beyond amounted to 56%, compared with 44% for those with a lesser qualification.  Unemployment was most prevalent among the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, reaching 46 and 40% respectively.  The DoS reported that 30% of men with a bachelor’s degree were unemployed, compared with 84% unemployment among their women counterparts.  (DoS 02.09)

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►►Arabian Gulf

5.4  Food Consumption in the GCC Growing to 60.7 Million Tonnes by 2023

Food consumption in the GCC is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3% to 60.7 million metric tonnes (MT) in 2023, according to new research.  Increase in population, growing tourism, high per capita income and a sustained economic recovery are likely to drive the growth of the food sector in the region, said Alpen Capital in a report.

As the staple food of the region, cereals are expected to remain the most consumed food category with a share of 48.2% by 2023.  The report said increasing demand for milk products will drive the growth of the dairy sector while consumption of egg, fish, potatoes and fats & oil will also increase.  Alpen added that consumption of healthy and organic food is likely to increase with growing awareness.  However, the respective share of most food categories in the overall consumption is anticipated to remain broadly unchanged.

The country-wise food consumption share in the GCC is also projected to largely remain unchanged through 2023 with Saudi Arabia and the UAE expected to remain the largest food consuming nations with their combined share of around 81%.  Oman is expected to experience the fastest annualized growth at a CAGR of 4.6%.  The report said an expanding consumer base will drive the growth in food consumption in the region. Increasing urbanization and a growing affluence of expatriates continue to drive the demand of packaged and international food.

It added that due to high prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the region, there is a growing awareness of healthy eating habits, which has boosted the demand for organic food and food items that are sugar and fat free, low in salt, and with no preservatives.  Due to the region’s unfavorable climate, limited water resources and arable land in the region, the GCC countries import around 85% of the total food consumed.  This has exposed the region to food price fluctuations and any adverse changes in the socio-political environment in the source countries and vital trade routes could pose a threat to GCC food imports, Alpen said.  (AB 15.09)

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5.5  Arab Middle East Defense Spending Forecast to Total $100 Billion in 2019

Arab Middle Eastern defense spending will reach $100 billion in 2019, led predominantly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to Jane’s by IHS Markit.  Out of the top 10 defense spending nations per capita, five are in the Middle East as are nine of the top 15 defense budgets per GDP.  On average, Middle Eastern countries spend 13% of their fiscal budgets on defense annually with Oman and Saudi Arabia spending close to 20% and 30% respectively.  According to the report, Saudi Arabia’s 2019 defense budget is $51 billion, making it the third largest military spending nation in the world.

The figures come ahead of the Dubai Airshow taking place in November, when the world’s leading defense companies will be displaying their latest innovations to an audience from around the world.  Lockheed Martin will be joined at the Dubai show by key global defense names including Rafale from France, Raytheon from the US and the Korea Defense Industry Association.  Saudi Arabian representation is also growing in line with its market commitment with first time appearances from INTRA Defense Technology and Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI).  At the last show in 2017, 279 delegations from 76 countries around the world attended, with that number expected to increase in 2019.  (AB 13.09)

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5.6  UAE Healthcare Sector Outlook 2019-2023

The UAE Healthcare Sector Outlook 2023 report has been added to‘s offering.  This research and analysis depicts that the healthcare market of UAE will grow at a CAGR of around 8.5% during the forecast period 2018 to 2023.

With rising initiatives by government, the UAE Healthcare market is witnessing an astonishing growth.  This is due to sedentary lifestyle by the population of Emirates and growing medical tourism in the region.  Also, the UAE government is extensively expanding and upgrading its healthcare system to develop strong world class healthcare infrastructure.  The government is also encouraging private sector participation to upgrade the existing infrastructure and match the quality of services offered in developed countries.  Further, the UAE Government is also liberalizing policies to attract foreign investments, in order to improvise the healthcare standard and boost the healthcare industry.  According to UAE Healthcare Sector Outlook 2023, the UAE has witnessed significant deals in terms of mergers, acquisition and strategic tie ups between healthcare stakeholders, public and private entities to enhance the healthcare industry.  (R&M 05.09)

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5.7  UAE Approves Nutrition Labelling Plan to Help Curb Obesity Rates

The UAE Cabinet has approved a Nutrition Labelling policy which aims to raise community awareness and nudge people into adopting a healthy lifestyle.  The approval represents a significant outcome of the Community Design for Wellbeing Initiative launched by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in April.  The implementation of the policy will be voluntary in its initial phase until it becomes compulsory in January 2022.  The new policy aims to label nutritional information on fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content in three colors – red, amber and green – on the front of food packages based on their levels, making it easy for customers to see whether the contents are high or low.  Information on calories will also be included in the labels.

Recent studies have shown that 68% of people in the UAE are overweight, 28% are obese, 44% have high cholesterol levels, 29% have high blood pressure, 20% eat high-sodium foods and that these diseases are responsible for 30% of all deaths in the UAE.  The policy was developed by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in cooperation with the Food Security Office, and will be implemented by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA).  It will include canned solid and liquid foods, but will exclude fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.  The initiative supports the National Food Security Strategy, which aims to sustain food safety, improve nutritional intake and reduce the consumption of unhealthy food elements by 30%.  (AB 11.09)

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5.8  Baskin Robbins Leads as the UAE’s Most-Loved Fast Food Brand

Baskin Robbins, the US-based chain of ice cream and cake restaurants, leads the industry rankings in the 2019 Brand Intimacy Report for the first time in 2019, gaining six spots after ranking seventh in 2018.  The remaining top 10 positions in the industry were taken by Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s, KFC, Tim Horton’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Shake Shack.

Brands in the industry showed a wide variation in performance among different demographics.  Millennials displayed stronger relationships with Costa Coffee, while users between the ages of 35-64 reported more intimacy with KFC.  Looking at gender and income, Starbucks ranked first with female users, while Baskin Robbins took the top spot with both male and high-income users.

Other findings for the fast food industry included 2% of users in the study saying that they couldn’t live without Baskin Robbins while 1% of users said they have an immediate emotional connection with McDonald’s, 33% higher than the industry average.  The report also revealed that 3% of users reported that they are willing to pay 20% more for Burger King’s products while Starbucks ranked highest in the industry for daily frequency.  MBLM, which produced the report, said the fast food industry ranks 13th out of 15 industries studied in report, its first move upwards after ranking 14th in both 2018 and 2017.  (AB 06.09)

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5.9  Medical Tourism Sales in the UAE Increased by 5.5% in 2018

Dubai attracted 337,011 international health tourists last year and is on track to achieve its target of attracting 500,000 by 2021, according to the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).  The authority also revealed that the tourists spent AED1.2 billion in health tourism last year and that the top three specialties sought out by health tourists were dentistry, orthopedics and dermatology.

A recent analysis by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that medical tourism sales in the UAE increased 5.5% year-on-year to reach AED12.1 billion in 2018.  The majority of international patients who come to Dubai are from Arab and GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, comprising 33% of the total.  Other parts of Asia make up 30% of visitors coming from India, Iran and Pakistan while European tourists consisting mostly of UK, French and Italian citizens share 16%.  Dental treatment is the most popular taken by health tourists, which account for 46% while orthopedics made up 18% and dermatology 10%.  Ophthalmology, wellness, aesthetics and fertility treatments were also popular.  The DHA aims to attract more than half a million medical tourists by 2021, ensuring that they have a quality health experience and the ideal treatment environment.  A 2019 Dubai Health Tourism guide has also been launched to further strengthen the position of Dubai on the health tourism world map.  (AB 06.09)

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5.10  New Deal Aims to Make Abu Dhabi a Top Medical Tourism Destination

Mubadala Investment Company, through its healthcare arm, has signed an agreement with Nirvana Travel and Tourism to work together to establish Abu Dhabi as a leading medical tourism destination.  The areas of collaboration will focus on potential visitors from the GCC, MENA, Russia, China and India, and will include aspects such as creating attractive and all-inclusive medical tourism packages, as well as exploring joint marketing and business opportunities.  Abu Dhabi currently attracts patients from more than 80 countries.

The partnership between the medical and tourism entities follows the lead set by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health and Department of Culture and Tourism.  As part of their collaboration, the departments have jointly set up a patient portal that will serve as a one-stop shop where potential medical tourists can find useful information.  Mubadala’s healthcare network includes Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, National Reference Laboratory, Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre, Capital Health Screening Centre and Amana Healthcare.  (AB 13.09)

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5.11  Dubai FDI on US Mission to Chase More Foreign Investment

Dubai FDI, the investment development agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED) in Dubai, is on an investment mission to the United States.  The delegation visited Houston, Texas and Denver, Colorado in mid-September as a part of Dubai’s Global Mission Program.  The delegates held meetings with both government and private sector organizations, in addition to three seminars to discuss investment opportunities in the emirate and promote Dubai as a preferred global destination for foreign direct investment (FDI).  The planned global investment promotion mission to the two states follows the steady growth of FDI capital inflows from the US to Dubai.  FDI capital inflows from the United States to the emirate reached AED14 billion in 2018, making it the largest foreign investor, based on latest data from the Dubai FDI Monitor.  It also reported that the total number of US investment projects in Dubai reached to 119 in 2018, reinforcing the US position in the lead in terms of the total number of FDI and FDI capital.  (AB 10.09)

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5.12  Saudi Oil Production Cut in Half Following Drone Attacks

Saudi Arabia’s oil production was cut by half after a swarm of explosive drones struck at the heart of the kingdom’s energy industry and set the world’s biggest crude-processing plant ablaze – an attack blamed on Iran by a top US diplomat.  About 5.7 million barrels per day of output has been suspended, Saudi Aramco said in a statement.  Gas output was also disrupted, with 2 billion cubic feet in daily output, about half of normal production, stopped by the attack.

The biggest attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles into the kingdom during the first Gulf War, the drone strike highlights the vulnerability of the network of fields, pipeline and ports that supply 10% of the world’s crude oil.  A prolonged outage at Abqaiq, where crude from several of the country’s largest oil fields is processed before being shipped to export terminals, would jolt global energy markets.  Aramco is working to compensate clients for some of the shortfall from its reserves.  Emergency crews have contained the fires, Aramco said.

Saudi Aramco, which pumped about 9.8 million barrels a day in August, will be able to keep customers supplied for several weeks by drawing on a global storage network.  The Saudis hold millions of barrels in tanks in the kingdom itself, plus three strategic locations around the world: Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Okinawa in Japan, and Sidi Kerir on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt.  The US Department of Energy said it’s prepared to dip into the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves if necessary to offset any market disruption.

The attacks come as Aramco, officially known as Saudi Arabian Oil Co., is speeding up preparations for an initial public offering.  The energy giant has selected banks for the share sale and may list as soon as November, people familiar with the matter have said.  Khurais is the location of Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest oil field, with a production capacity of 1.45 million barrels a day.  Abqaiq has a crude oil processing capacity of more than 7 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.  (AB 15.09)

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►►North Africa

5.13  Egypt’s Foreign Reserves Reach a Record $44.96 Billion

Egypt’s foreign reserves have risen by about $52 million, recording $44.969 billion by the end of August 2019, compared to $44.917 billion by the end of July 2019, according to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).  The CBE added that this amount, which is an initial estimation, is the highest ever recorded by the bank.

However, Egypt’s foreign reserves are built up depending on the loans from fund corporations.  They do not reflect production or investment revenues.  By receiving the last tranche of a loan from the IMF, Egypt will not have another major source of foreign reserves.  Key sources of foreign reserves for Egypt’s banking system are tourism and the export sector, as well as the Suez Canal, but all these sources are suffering and do not provide the required revenues, especially in foreign currency.  International instability due to the US-China trade war and a looming global recession are also casting a shadow over Egypt’s economy, especially for the upcoming year.

Foreign currency reserves reached $44.9 billion at the end of July 2019, when Egypt received that last tranche of the $12 billion IMF loan.  Foreign exchange reserves in Egypt averaged $2.5 billion from 2003 until 2019, reaching an all-time high of $44.9 billion in August of 2019 and a record low of $13.45 billion in March 2013.  (CBE 04.09)

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5.14  Morocco is the 2nd Largest Wine Exporter in Africa

Spanish news outlet Periodistas published a report on 16 September on Morocco’s wine production and the consumption of wine in Morocco.  The report indicates that Moroccans consumed 38 million bottles of wine in 2018.  Morocco’s production constitutes 77% of Moroccan red wine, 6.6 % of white wine and 16.4 % of rose and gray wine.  The gray wine is only produced in Morocco.  The Spanish source indicates that in Spain Moroccan wine is a minor import.  Only 10 or 15% of Moroccan wine is for export.  Moroccan wine reaches Europe and other continents, including the US, Japan and China.  In Europe, the wine is also exported to the Netherlands, France, and Belgium.

In addition to exports in Europe, Asia, and America, Morocco is also the second-largest exporter of wine in Africa after South Africa.

The Spanish report also gave statistics about alcohol consumption in Morocco, indicating that in addition to wine, 310 million liters of beer were consumed over the last three years.  That is amounts to some 103 million liters per year, in addition to 14 million bottles of other alcoholic beverages.  The best-known beer brands are Casablanca, Flag, and Stork.  The news report also emphasized the increase in alcohol since the Justice and Development Party (PJD) came to power in 2011.  The price of wine has increased more than 20% and beer 12 % since the arrival of the PJD.  Between January and May 2017, Moroccan consumers drank 7% more compared to the same period last year.  (MWN 17.09)

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6.1  Turkey’s Annual Inflation Rate Falls to 15% in August

Consumer prices in Turkey rose by 15.01% in August compared to the same month last year, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced on 3 September.  August’s figure was down from 16.65% in July, beating expectations.

Last month, change in consumer price index saw a rise of 0.86% on a monthly basis, data showed.  Data showed that the highest monthly rate of change in consumer prices was seen in 19.11% in alcoholic beverages and tobacco.  It was followed by education with 4.26% and housing with 2.04%.  Among the main expenditure groups, the highest monthly decrease was in transportation with a 1.94% decline.

The country’s inflation rate target is 15.9% this year, 9.8% next year, and 6.0% in 2021, under the new economic program announced last September.  Since the beginning of this year, annual inflation saw its lowest level in August and hit the highest level in January at 20.35%.  (TurkStat 03.09)

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6.2  Turkish Exports Rise by 1.7% in August

Turkey’s exports were worth $13.2 billion in August, up 1.7% from a year earlier, the country’s trade minister said on 4 September.  Ruhsar Pekcan said the country’s imports inched down 0.27% on a yearly basis to $15.5 billion in the month.  Turkey saw nearly 10% annual decline in foreign trade deficit to $2.4 billion last month, she added.  Foreign trade volume stood at $28.7 billion, up 0.62% during the same period.

Through the end of every month, Turkey’s statistical authority TurkStat releases the final foreign trade figures for the previous month, as the Ministry of Trade announces preliminary general trade system data in the first week of every month.  (AA 04.09)

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6.3  Turkey’s Biggest Firm to Halt Steel Production on Demand Slump

Koc Holding, Turkey’s biggest industrial group, will halt steel production at its Iskenderun plant unless the market situation in the country improves.  The company’s Koc Celik unit will suspend production from the end of September until January, as it has been unable to offset a slump in domestic demand for steel billet with overseas sales.  Demand in Turkey sharply decreased in August last year, when a currency crisis sparked an economic recession.

Koc’s local customers slowly reduced their purchases over a prolonged period, prompting the company to make the decision to shut production.  Other Turkish steelmakers cut output slightly in August as a deterioration in the overseas market weighed on sales.  The company, which has the capacity to produce 1.2 million tonnes of liquid steel at Iskenderun, informed a local environmental agency as early as June of the potential shutdown.

Turkey’s economy has contracted on an annual basis for the past three quarters.  Most economists expect growth of around zero for the whole of 2019.  Consumer confidence in Turkey edged up to 58.3 in August from 56.5 in July.  Any reading below 100 reflects pessimism about the future.  Koc Celik also manufactures rebar at a mill in Hatay, which has an annual capacity of 500,000 tonnes, Argus said.  (Ahval 05.09)

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6.4  Greece’s Jobless Rate Falls to 16.9% in the Second Quarter

Greece’s jobless rate fell to 16.9%% in April-to-June from 19.2% in the first quarter, data by the country’s statistics service ELSTAT showed on 12 September.  About 70.8%% of Greece’s 805,047 jobless are long-term unemployed, meaning they have been out of work for at least 12 months, the figures showed.  Greece’s highest unemployment rate was recorded in the first quarter of 2014, when joblessness hit 27.8%.

The data showed that women and young people in the 15-19 age group were most affected among the unemployed.  The jobless rate for women was 20.9% versus 13.7% for men in the second quarter, while for people aged 15-19 it stood at 41.5%.  Athens has already published monthly unemployment figures through June, which differ from quarterly data because they are based on different samples and are seasonally adjusted. Quarterly figures are not seasonally adjusted.  June unemployment fell to 17%, the lowest since May 2011.  Greece’s economy remained on the path of recovery in April-to-June, with its pace of expansion picking up from the first quarter thanks to a boost from net exports and government spending.  Economic growth accelerated to 1.9% year-on-year from a 1.1% clip in the first quarter.  (ELSTAT 12.09)

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6.5  Greek Tax Revenues Over Perform in First Eight Months of 2019

Tax revenues in the year’s first eight months exceeded their target by €468 million, according to budget figures published by the State General Accounting Office, allowing Deputy Finance Minister Skylakakis to express his optimism that “the target for a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP, which is our commitment, will be achieved.”  Besides the course of revenues, the government is optimistic thanks to the projected underspending of the budget, due to the high target originally set.  The accounting office estimates this will create an additional fiscal space of some €500 million.  (eKathimerini 16.09)

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7.1  Israel’s Election Results Pending Final Count

At press time, the results of Israel’s election were too close to call.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White were again locked in a parity situation, whereby their potential ruling coalition partners had yet to claim any seats in a definitive way.  Even if preliminary results were to indicate a political direction, it would still take a few days for the final allocation of seats.

The two parties had tied in April elections at 35 seats.  Prime Minister Netanyahu was tasked with forming a government, but was unable to come up with the necessary support because of an impasse between ultra-Orthodox and secular right-wing parties, eventually forcing the vote on 17 September.

The secular right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party is poised to win between 8 to 10 seats.  The party has not committed to either the right wing or left wing; the former defense minister has called for a unity government.  Following the April balloting, Yisrael Beiteinu refused to join a governing coalition unless it endorsed a bill obligating ultra-Orthodox men to participate in the mandatory military draft.

Should the left achieve a relative advantage, it is unlikely to get a majority of the Knesset to support it without Yisrael Beytenu, which has vowed it would only sit in a unity government comprising Likud and Blue and White.  Analysts expect the deadlock to remain for at least several weeks until one of the major parties agrees to modify its terms.

The votes of soldiers, prisoners, hospital patients, poll workers, on-duty police officers, and Israeli diplomats and officials working overseas are not counted until the day after the election, which has led to some shifts in the number of seats for parties.  Israel does not have absentee ballots for citizens who live abroad or who are out of the country on Election Day.  (Various 17.09)

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7.2  TAU Among World’s Top 10 Universities Producing Entrepreneurs, Startup Founders

Pitchbook, a research company covering private capital markets, announced that Tel Aviv University (TAU) ranked 8th in the world in producing entrepreneurs with an undergrad degree from the university and went on to found startups that raised significant capital.  According to Pitchbook, some 640 entrepreneurs emerged from Tel Aviv University’s undergraduate programs, starting 531 companies that raised almost $8 billion in funding over the years.  TAU was the only non-American university in the top 10.

In the same category ranking the top 50 undergrad programs, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology ranked 14th, producing 468 entrepreneurs who have gone on to found 395 companies raising $7.2 billion.  The Hebrew University of Jerusalem came in 35th, with 304 entrepreneurs, 268 companies and $4.31 billion in raised capital.

Pitchbook went on to name the top five Israeli companies, by capital raised, founded by entrepreneurs with an undergraduate degree from TAU: Houzz, the Israeli-American interior design company said valued at over $4 billion; Signifyd, the San Jose-based company that developed enterprise-level fraud detection tech and has raised $185 million in capital; BlueVine, a company that developed payment solutions tech for small businesses and has raised almost $600 million; Trax Image Recognition, which leverages computer vision for retail tech, raising almost $300 million; and Next Insurance, which provides entrepreneurs with online insurance and has raised over $130 million.

In the top 25 MBA programs category, Tel Aviv University came in 13th with 233 entrepreneurs and 221 companies.  The top five Israeli companies by venture capital raised in this category were Houzz, BlueVine, IronSource, a market leader in app monetization and distribution valued at $1.5 billion, Stratoscale, a Herzliya-based cloud computing startup that has raised close to $70 million, and Gigya, the customer identity tech firm acquired last year for $350 million by SAP, Europe’s largest software company.  In the unicorns category, TAU ranked 9th in the top MBA programs with two companies by Israeli entrepreneurs valued at over $1 billion (Houzz, IronSource).

For the number of exits category, TAU ranked 8th for alumni with an undergrad degree who exited (118 entrepreneurs) and 11th for alumni with an MBA who exited.  The Technion ranked 11th for producing entrepreneurs who sold their companies or had them acquired.

With over 30,000 students, half of whom are in Master’s or doctoral programs, Tel Aviv University is the largest in Israel.  The public research university boasts nine faculties, 17 teaching hospitals, 18 performing arts centers, 27 schools, 106 departments, 340 research centers and 400 laboratories.  In 2017, TAU was ranked among the top 10 colleges worldwide that have graduated the most founders of unicorns, according to British business management firm Sage, which ranked the Israeli institution at number eight.  That same year, the university was among three Israeli universities ranked in Reuters’ 100 World’s Most Innovative Universities.  (NoCamels 02.09)

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7.3  Construction Begins on $272 Million in New Schools in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi General Services Company (Musanada) has begun the construction of six new schools in the emirate worth more than AED1 billion ($272 million).  In collaboration with the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), the new schools are being built across Bani Yas, Al Rahba, Al Riyadh, Al Dhaher, Al Bahia and Shiab Al Ashkhar.  The execution of the projects is part of Musanada’s efforts to realize the vision of President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan towards delivering projects that offer a stimulating educational environment to both students and teachers.  Musanada said that eco-sustainability would play a big part in the construction of the educational projects.

All new schools will deploy the latest electromechanical systems, including air conditioning and firefighting systems.  The construction will conform to best practices as laid down in the Abu Dhabi Future Schools Programme relating to the design of the classrooms and multipurpose halls.  (AB 10.09)

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7.4  Moroccan Universities Rank Poorly in the World University Rankings 2020

On 11 September, Times Higher Education magazine published the World University Rankings 2020.  Four Moroccan universities were part of the 1400 universities, from 92 countries that appeared on the list.  However, none of them made it to the Top 500.

Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, in Fes ranked first on the national level.  Internationally, however, the university ranked in the 601-800 section.  Hassan II University in Casablanca, Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech and Mohammed V University in Rabat all ranked in the 1001+ section.

The University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah made a steady progress from ranking 1001+ in 2018, to 801-1000 in 2019 and then 601-800 in this year’s rankings.  Meanwhile, Mohammed V University and Cadi Ayyad University went down the ranking ladder through the years.  Rabat’s University went from Top 800 in 2017 to 1001+ in 2020, while Cadi Ayyad University made an alarming decline from 301-350 in 2015 to this year’s ranking.

In the MENA region, two universities from Saudi Arabia ranked first and second. King Abdulaziz University (201-250 globally) and Alfaisal University (251-300), respectively.  The third best university in the MENA region is the United Arab Emirates University (301-500).  Other universities in the MENA region that made it to the Top 500 of the rankings include Khalifa University (UAE), American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Jordan University of Science and Technology (Jordan), Qatar University (Qatar), Aswan University, and Mansoura University (Egypt).  (MWN 16.09)

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7.5  Only Two Turkish Universities Ranked Among the World’s Top 500

Cankaya University in Ankara and Sabanci University in Istanbul are the only two Turkish institutions among the world’s top 500 universities, according to the 2020 edition of the Times Higher Education Rankings released on 11 September.  Bilkent University, Hacettepe University and Koc University are ranked between 500 and 600, while Turkey’s three most well-known state universities, Bogazici University, Istanbul Technical University and Middle East Technical University, made it into the top 800.

In 2017 and 2018, five Turkish universities ranked among the top 500 universities in the Times rankings.  The changes in the rankings of Turkish universities indicate a serious decline in higher education.  Following a supposed coup attempt in 2016, more than 23,400 academics lost their jobs, with thousands dismissed by government decree during a two-year emergency rule.  Turkish President Erdogan has increased his control over universities, issuing a decree last year that stripped much of the supervisory powers of the country’s education watchdog and gave the president sole authority to appoint university rectors.  (Ahval 12.09)

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8.1  NRGene Advanced Technology Joins the Amazon Web Services Partner Network

NRGene has joined Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN) as an Advanced Technology Partner.  The APN Advanced Technology Partner designation is the highest tier for APN Technology Partners.  This achievement underscores NRGene’s mission to provide the power of genomic solutions to leading agriculture breeding companies to improve yields for the world’s food and biomaterials.  NRGene provides turn-key solutions to support new and existing plant breeding programs, aimed to maximize crop yield for commercial companies.  The company’s portfolio relies on cloud-based big-data and AI solutions.

Joining the APN builds on an existing relationship between NRGene and AWS. NRGene has been leveraging AWS to provide cloud services tailored to the needs of commercial companies looking to improve their agricultural products.

Ness Ziona’s NRGene is an AI genomics company that provides turn-key solutions to leading commercial companies that practice plant breeding.  Using advanced algorithmics and extensive proprietary databases, we empower plant breeders to reach their full potential by achieving stronger and more productive yields in record time.  NRGene’s tools have already been employed by some of the leading agribiotech companies worldwide, as well as the most influential research teams in academia.  (NRGene 04.09)

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8.2  EarlySign’s Machine Learning Algorithm Predicts High-Risk Cardiac Patients Following Discharge

Medial EarlySign announced the results of new research with Mayo Clinic assessing the effectiveness of machine learning for predicting cardiac patients’ future risk trajectories following hospital discharge.  The peer-reviewed retrospective data study, Leveraging Machine Learning Techniques to Forecast Patient Prognosis After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, published in JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions, evaluated the ability of machine learning models to assess risk for patients who underwent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) inside the hospital and following their discharge.  The analyzed algorithm was developed by Medial EarlySign data scientists to identify patients at highest risk of complications and hospital readmission after undergoing PCI, one of the most frequently performed procedures in U.S. hospitals.

The study revealed that Medial EarlySign’s algorithm had an excellent discriminatory ability using only data points available at time of admission or at discharge.  Compared with standard regression methods, it was more predictive and discriminative at identifying in-patient sub-groups at high risk for 180-day post-PCI mortality and 30-day rehospitalization for congestive heart failure.  The algorithm also proved effective at identifying patient subgroups at high risk of post-procedure complications and readmission, supporting the potential role for integrating machine learning into clinical practice.

Founded in 2013, Tel Aviv’s Medial EarlySign helps healthcare systems with early detection and prevention of high-burden diseases. Their suite of outcome-focused software solutions (AlgoMarkers™) find subtle, early signs of high-risk patient trajectories in existing lab results and ordinary EHR data already collected in the course of routine care.  EarlySign’s AlgoMarkers are currently helping clients identify patients at high risk for conditions such as lower GI disorders, pre-diabetic progression to diabetes, downstream diabetic complications, first coronary artery disease (CAD) and equivalent events, and chronic kidney disease (CKD).  The company’s machine learning platform has been supported by peer-reviewed research published by internationally recognized health organizations and hospitals.  (Medial EarlySign 04.09)

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8.3  PolyPid Announces Completion of $50 Million Series E-1 Financing

PolyPid announced the closing of its $50 million Series E-1 preferred shares financing round.  The financing was led by existing institutional shareholders and included US-based high-net worth investors. National Securities Corporation acted as the placement agent for the financing.  PolyPid plans to use the proceeds from the financing to advance the clinical development of its lead product D-PLEX100 into two phase 3 pivotal registration trials.

PolyPid’s lead drug product candidate, D-PLEX100, is a novel pharmaceutical agent designed to provide local and prolonged anti-bacterial activity to prevent surgical site infections.  Following the administration of D-PLEX100 into the surgical site, D-PLEX technology enables the constant and prolonged release of a broad-spectrum antibiotic, generating high local concentrations for up to four weeks.  Through this mechanism, D-PLEX100 has demonstrated the ability to effectively prevent surgical site infection including those caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria. D-PLEX100 has received Fast Track status and two Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) designations from the FDA for the prevention of sternal wound infection post cardiac surgery and for the prevention of post-abdominal surgery incisional infection.

Petah Tikva’s PolyPid is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing novel, locally administered therapies using its transformational PLEX (Polymer-Lipid Encapsulation Matrix) technology to treat a wide variety of localized medical conditions with an initial focus on the management of surgical site infections.  PLEX-based products have demonstrated an excellent efficacy and safety profile during extended clinical trials.  (PolyPid 04.09)

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8.4  Wize Pharma Enters Exclusive Agreement for Ophthalmic Gene Technology

Wize Pharma has entered into an Exclusive License Agreement with Cleveland’s Copernicus Therapeutics, pursuant to which, at the closing, it will be granted exclusive rights to license, develop and commercialize products based on a non-viral gene therapy technology developed by Copernicus for the treatment of Choroideremia (CHM).  CHM is a rare, degenerative, inherited retinal disorder which leads to blindness and currently has no FDA-approved treatments.

WP-REP1, Wize’s gene therapy product to be based on the licensed technology from Copernicus, will be comprised of a DNA compacted nanoparticle (NP), administered by intraocular injection, which is designed to provide a functioning CHM gene to photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells.  Copernicus has demonstrated proof of concept data in multiple preclinical animal disease studies in IRD models utilizing its NPs to improve vision.  As part of the planned regulatory path for WP-REP1, the parties will aim to demonstrate in a planned Phase 1/2 clinical study that the use of NPs targeting the REP-1 protein with CHM DNA NPs demonstrates a satisfactory safety and tolerability profile while also providing indications of clinical benefit.

Hod HaSharon’s Wize Pharma is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company currently focused on the treatment of ophthalmic disorders, including DES.  Wize has in-licensed certain rights to purchase, market, sell and distribute a formula known as LO2A, a drug developed for the treatment of DES, and other ophthalmological illnesses, including CCh and Sjogren’s syndrome.  (Wize Pharma 09.09)

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8.5  CorNeat Vision Completes Pre-clinical Phase for Synthetic Cornea and Scleral Patch

CorNeat Vision has completed the pre-clinical stage of its revolutionary cornea implant (CorNeat KPro / Keratoprosthesis) and the first synthetic, non-degradable scleral patch (CorNeat EverPatch).  CorNeat’s synthetic biology technology enables its ophthalmic implants to completely and permanently integrate with surrounding tissue.  This is done using a synthetic and non-degradable extra cellular matrix (ECM) that provides structural support to surrounding cells and stimulates their growth and proliferation into the implants.  CorNeat Vision’s pre-clinical trials, which included several animal ocular implantation studies, proved the safety of its technology as it applied to its synthetic cornea (CorNeat KPro), synthetic scleral patch (EverPatch) and glaucoma shunt (eShunt).

Ra’anana’s CorNeat Vision is an ophthalmic medical device company with an overarching mission of improving health, sustainability and equality worldwide.  CorNeat Vision was the 1st prize winner of China’s (Shenzhen) Innovation Award in 2018 and was nominated as the 2018 BioMed Startup of the Year by the Israeli Innovation Authority.  CorNeat Vision produces a lineup of innovative, safe, affordable and long-lasting ophthalmic medical solutions, including the CorNeat KPro, the CorNeat EverPatch and the CorNeat eShunt.  Their products will significantly impact ophthalmic surgery practices in the areas of cornea, sclera, glaucoma and more.  (CorNeat Vision 09.09)

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8.6  Assuta Ashdod Medical Center Deploys MedAware’s Patient Safety Platform

MedAware announced that Assuta Ashdod, Israel’s newest hospital, will deploy its life-saving AI-driven solution within its 300-bed facility.  The live implementation follows a successful “silent mode” trial deployment, which validated the accuracy and clinical relevance of MedAware’s safety platform.  MedAware’s flagship solution utilizes big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to identify and prevent medication errors at the point of care and notifies providers about evolving medication risks, including adverse drug events, contraindications and opioid dependency – all of which could lead to patient harm and poor outcomes.

Ra’anana’s MedAware is transforming patient safety through AI-empowered clinical decision support solutions.  By continuously mining data gathered from electronic health records and prescription drug claims, MedAware’s flagship solution accurately detects and prevents medication related risks, such as medication errors, opioid dependency risk, evolving adverse drug events and contraindications.  MedAware’s system improves patient safety and significantly reduces avoidable risks and costs each day.  (MedAware 09.09)

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8.7  CollPlant Biotechnologies Closes on $5.5 Million Financing

CollPlant has closed on a total of $5.5 million in convertible loans.  A group of U.S. accredited investors with deep experience in the 3D printing industry purchased $3.5 million of the convertible loans, and the Company’s largest shareholder, Ami Sagi, purchased $2 million of the convertible loans, through a non-brokered private placement.  An additional $1.0 million investment will be made by Ami Sagi following the execution of a license and/or a co-development agreement between CollPlant and a strategic business partner, if such were to occur.

Rehovot’s CollPlant is a regenerative medicine company focused on 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs, medical aesthetics.  Their products are based on our rhCollagen (recombinant human collagen) that is produced with CollPlant’s proprietary plant based genetic engineering technology.  Their products address indications for the diverse fields of organ and tissue repair, and are ushering in a new era in regenerative medicine.  CollPlant’s flagship rhCollagen BioInk product line is ideal for 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs.  (CollPlant 09.09)

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8.8  Rootella Mycorrhizal Inoculants Registered for Commercial Use in Canada

Groundwork BioAg announced that Rootella F, Rootella G, Rootella S and Rootella WP mycorrhizal inoculants have all been approved for commercial use by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).  These product registrations follow similar achievements in additional territories, including the United States, Brazil, Ukraine and Belgium.

Each Rootella product is formulated to accommodate specific cultivation methods.  The four products currently registered in Canada cover the gamut of Canadian crops, from seed treatment and in-furrow applications for row crops and specialty crops, to nursery and transplantation applications for vegetables and trees.  Canadian farmers stand to increase crop yields while saving on fertilizer and protecting their crops from various types of stress.  All Rootella products are biological, 100% natural and suitable for regenerative agriculture.

Moshav Mazor’s Groundwork BioAg produces effective mycorrhizal inoculants for commercial agriculture. Natural mycorrhizal fungi improve soil nutrient uptake in 90% of all plant species.  When applied to agriculture, mycorrhizal inoculants increase crop yields, especially under stress conditions.  Growers may also reduce fertilizer application rates, notably phosphorus.  Groundwork BioAg’s uniquely vigorous and highly concentrated Rootella products have demonstrated impressive field trial results in several major crops, such as corn, soybean, lentil, bean, tomato, pepper, onion and potato.  (Groundwork BioAg 06.09)

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8.9  Endospan Enters Into Strategic Distribution Agreement with CryoLife

Endospan has entered into strategic distribution and credit facility agreements with Kennesaw, Georgia’s CryoLife, a leading cardiac and vascular surgery company focused on aortic disease.  Under the terms of the agreement, CryoLife will have exclusive European distribution rights to NEXUS, the first off-the-shelf endovascular stent graft system approved for the repair of both aneurysms and dissections in the aortic arch.  CryoLife will pay a total upfront payment of $10 million.  Additionally, CryoLife will provide up to $15 million in debt financing to Endospan subject to progress on the U.S. clinical development program for the NEXUS Stent Graft System.  This investment also positioned Endospan to seek U.S. FDA approval for the NEXUS Stent Graft System through a Premarket Approval (PMA) study that is expected to start enrolling patients in 2020.

Minimally invasive techniques are standard-of-care for treating descending aortic disease and heart disease, but highly invasive, high-mortality open surgery is still being used in the difficult-to-treat aortic arch anatomy.  The NEXUS Stent Graft System is uniquely engineered to address this significant area of unmet and underserved clinical need.  The European market for the treatment of aortic arch disease including aneurysms and dissections is approximately $150 million annually.

Privately held Endospan, headquartered in Herzliya, is a pioneer in the endovascular repair of aortic arch disease including aneurysms and dissections.  Endospan is the first CE endovascular off-the-shelf system to treat aortic arch disease, which includes a greatly underserved group of patients diagnosed with a dilative lesion in, or near the aortic arch.  While minimally invasive endovascular repair has been the standard of care for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), Aortic Arch Disease patients with aneurysms or dissections have not been as fortunate and have had little choice but to undergo open-chest surgery with its invasiveness and risks, lengthy hospitalization periods, and prolonged recuperation.  (Endospan 12.09)

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8.10  Baxter Acquires Cheetah Medical to Expand Specialized Patient Monitoring Portfolio

Deerfield, Illinois’ Baxter International, a leading global medical products company, entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Cheetah Medical.  The agreement demonstrates Baxter’s ongoing commitment to improving clinical outcomes with an established patient monitoring technology to better inform and guide clinicians’ treatment decisions.  Cheetah Medical is a natural adjacency for Baxter, given Baxter’s longstanding leadership in infusion systems and intravenous (IV) solutions, breadth of knowledge in fluid management, and strong presence in critical care and IV therapy.  The transaction consists of an upfront cash consideration of $190 million, with potential for an additional $40 million based on clinical and commercial milestones.

The addition of Cheetah Medical will accelerate Baxter’s presence in the specialized patient monitoring space with key technology used to guide fluid management—a critical aspect of patient care—as too little or too much fluid can increase mortality and risk of complications.  Cheetah Medical’s technology is helping to shift care away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to fluid administration to one that is data-driven and tailored to individual patient needs.  Through this integrated approach to medication delivery and patient monitoring, clinicians will be better able to manage patients with sepsis, acute kidney injury (AKI) and other critical conditions, as well as patients undergoing surgery.  Cheetah Medical’s technology will also serve as a foundational component of a novel platform of specialized patient monitoring technologies currently under development.

Cheetah Medical, headquartered in Tel Aviv, was founded in 2000.  Today, its technology is available in approximately 30 countries around the world, including the United States.  Cheetah Medical will provide Baxter with the company’s non-invasive hemodynamic monitoring systems, including the latest Starling™ SV system.  These monitoring technologies provide dynamic measurements of fluid responsiveness, enabling clinicians to make more confident and informed treatment decisions regarding the proper amount of fluid required to maintain organ and tissue perfusion.  (Baxter 10.09)

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8.11  Can-Fite & Univo Pharmaceuticals to Develop Cannabinoid-Based Pharmaceuticals

Can-Fite BioPharma announced it entered into a collaboration agreement with Univo Pharmaceuticals to identify and co-develop specific formulations of cannabis components for the treatment of cancer, inflammatory, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases.

It is widely recognized that the identification of specific receptors and pathways through which CBD operates is expected to greatly enhance the development of CBD-based pharmaceuticals.  Can-Fite is uniquely positioned to contribute its deep pharmaceutical development expertise to the CBD market, based on findings published in peer reviewed scientific journals demonstrating that CBDs bind to the Gi protein-coupled A3 adenosine receptor (A3AR), which is over-expressed in pathological cells.  Can-Fite is a global leader in the research and development of drugs that target A3AR.

Under the collaboration agreement, Can-Fite and Univo will jointly collaborate in the discovery of, and Can-Fite will have a first right to express interest to clinically develop, cannabis and cannabis components for the treatment of cancer, inflammatory, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases.  Can-Fite will also develop a screening assay to identify therapeutically active cannabis components, and once developed, Univo will market the assay on a ‘fee for service’ basis to other pharmaceutical companies worldwide.

Petah Tikva’s Can-Fite BioPharma is an advanced clinical stage drug development Company with a platform technology that is designed to address multi-billion dollar markets in the treatment of cancer, inflammatory disease and sexual dysfunction.  Ashkelon’s UNIVO is a vertically-integrated medical cannabis company including cultivation, manufacturing and distribution as well as the creation of innovative products and dosage forms for next-generation medical cannabis products.  UNIVO holds initial licenses for the entire supply chain: growing, breeding and nursery, production of medical cannabis products, research and development and distribution.  (Can-Fite 10.09)

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8.12 Raises $60 Million in Series C Funding and Receives FDA Clearance has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. FDA for its smartphone-based ACR test to be used in the aid of diagnosing chronic kidney disease (CKD), which affects over 35 million Americans.  This is the second FDA clearance the company has received.  The company also closed a $60 million Series C funding round led by Corner Ventures with participation by Joy Capital and all previous investors: Ansonia Holdings, Aleph and Samsung NEXT.  The funding round will be used to accelerate’s global expansion and product development.

The FDA clearance designates’s smartphone-based ACR test as substantially equivalent to lab-based testing and authorizes the use of the test by healthcare professionals at any point of care.  It makes it possible for any pharmacy, urgent care center, or health clinic to perform the test without investing in a tabletop lab device.  In addition,’s solution allows immediate electronic medical record (EMR) connectivity through the automated smartphone scan.  Last year, the company received clearance for its at-home, smartphone-based 10 parameter urinalysis test kit, called, that can be used in testing for UTIs or in prenatal care.  Next, the company plans to continue the approval process for its ACR test kit for at-home use.

Tel Aviv’s is the global leader in turning the smartphone camera into a clinical grade medical device.  By combining AI and machine learning for colorimetric analysis, best-in-class UX design, and rigorous science, is expanding access to health care.  The company’s first offering —  the only smartphone-powered urinalysis cleared by the FDA and European regulators as equivalent to lab-based testing —  has been used by tens of thousands of patients using a range of smartphones.  ( 11.09)

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8.13  Redefine Meat Raises $6 Million Round Led by CPT Capital for its 3D Alt-Meat Printer

Redefine Meat announced the completion of a $6 million seed round led by CPT Capital, joined by Israel-based Hanaco Ventures, Germany’s largest poultry company The PHW Group and leading Israeli angel investors.  Redefine Meat will use the investment to finalize the development of its revolutionary alternative-meat 3D printer, which will be released during 2020.

The company is developing a comprehensive solution that combines a proprietary semi-industrial 3D digital printing platform – in fact, one of the world’s fastest 3D printers, a 3D meat modeling system and plant-based food formulations.  The solution delivers a new category of complex matrix “meat” that is both delicious and craveable, while also being cost effective and scalable.  Redefine Meat’s animal-free meat comprises natural and sustainable ingredients that deliver the same appearance, texture and flavor of animal meat used for steaks, roasts and stews.  The breakthrough technology will also enable meat distributors and retailers to design the characteristics of their meat to cater for seasonality, changing demands and consumers preferences with “printed meat” that is 100% predictable and replicable.  Redefine Meat products have a 95% smaller environmental impact than animal meat, no cholesterol, and are cost-effective.

Tel Aviv’s Redefine Meat is leading a technological revolution in the food industry by creating craveable animal-free meat using proprietary industrial 3D printers.  Founded in 2018, Redefine Meat has developed patent-pending technology that replicates the texture, flavor, and eating experience of beef and other high-value meat products.  The company uses plant-based ingredients and technology as opposed to animals, allowing for a dramatically more efficient, sustainable and moral way to produce meat without compromising on the experience.  Redefine Meat’s alt-meat is 95% more sustainable, significantly healthier and costs less than beef.  (Redefine Meat 11.09)

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8.14  Equinom Beefs up Plant-based Meat Products

Seed-breeding specialist start-up, Kibbutz Givat Brenner’s Equinom, is helping food manufacturers unlock the true potential of plant-based meat products.  Equinom’s innovative designer non-GMO seeds are enabling food companies to close the gap between consumer demand for cleaner meat alternatives and innovating palate-pleasing, affordable products.

Equinom’s multifaceted proprietary solution can give manufacturers the opportunity to brand their products with a cleaner label in order to drive strong consumer adoption.  Equinom breeds specifically for organoleptic properties, custom-designing plant varieties that have revived great taste, appealing texture and improved nutrition.  The company has restored these high-demand qualities naturally in the crops, demonstrating that one plant can have it all.  By leveraging the whole plant and designating key components to meet food company product development needs, Equinom maximizes component contribution using minimum separation, which also reduces the need to mask unpleasant tastes.  Equinom uses electronic sensing systems such as e-tongue and e-nose for high-throughput analysis of off flavors, which helps top quality and accelerate breeding.

Equinom’s strategic ingredient design is disrupting the entire food production system, uprooting previously entrenched limitations and delivering seeds for source ingredients that are setting the functional, financial and eco-friendly standards in the market.  (Equinom 10.09)

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8.15  Kanabo Joins Forces with CiiTECH to Launch Targeted Terpene Formulas

Kanabo partnered with UK canna-tech company CiiTECH to launch Israeli developed terpene formulas for use with the VapePod, Kanabo’s medical grade cannabis device.  Terpenes are aromatic compounds derived from naturally produced oils found in the resin glands of plants, known as trichomes.  Terpenes offer valuable medicinal benefits, alleviating the symptoms of a variety of disorders, in particular, acting as an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory.  CiiTECH, a leading cannabis biotech company has collaborated with Kanabo to ensure that the company’s terpene formulas meet the highest standards required for the UK market.

The formulas have been designed specifically for use with the VapePod, Kanabo’s cutting-edge cannabis oil vaporization device that includes metered-dosing, allowing extremely accurate consumption.  The VapePod™ is the first-ever medically certified vaporization delivery system for cannabis oils.

Ness Ziona’s Kanabo Research, an R&D company based in Israel, creates innovative solutions for the medical cannabis industry. Kanabo focuses on building medically validated IP that includes delivery systems working in synergy with applications of patented formulations of cannabis oil.  (Kanabo Research 10.09)

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8.16  Tarsius Pharma Granted €2.4 Million by EU to Support First-in-human Clinical Trial for TRS01

Tarsius Pharma has been awarded a highly competitive HRIZON 2020 Grant from the European Commission worth €2.4 million (~$2.6 million).  TRS, the Tarsius bio-inspired technology, approaches inflammatory diseases from within the immune system.  Tarsius Pharma implements a patented, proprietary new molecule which was developed to re-engineer the immune system.  The TRS Platform Technology has the potential to effectively treat a broad array of autoimmune and inflammatory ocular diseases. Untreated, these diseases can have devastating effects, and may eventually lead to blindness.

Zikhron Yaakov’s Tarsius Pharma was established in 2016 and is focused on developing innovative therapeutic solutions to prevent blindness.  In addition to the EU grant, Tarsius is backed by Sun Pharmaceuticals, a global pharmaceutical company, as well as investments by private investors and family offices.  (Tarsius Pharma 16.09)

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8.17  Horizon 2020 Program Backs Filterlex’s Embolic Protection Device – CAPTIS

Filterlex Medical has been selected for the Phase 2 Horizon 2020 SME Instrument program.  Filterlex will receive a two-year grant valued at €2.1m that has been awarded through the prestigious Horizon 2020’s Phase 2 Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Instrument, which targets groundbreaking innovations with the potential to profoundly impact the EU economy and global healthcare.  According to the EU SME Instrument, the grant application process is highly competitive with 3.6% of the proposed applications selected for funding by multinational panels of technology, business and finance experts.

Filterlex develops the CAPTIS, a full-body embolic protection device to reduce the risk of stroke and other complications during catheter-based structural heart procedures.  During catheter-based, left-heart procedures, such as a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), embolic particles are often released to the blood flow.  During this procedure, particles migration to the brain may cause a spectrum of neurological deficiencies, from cognitive impairment to debilitating stroke.  Emboli released to distal organs may result in acute kidney injury and ischemia.  The CAPTIS device is a next-generation, full-body embolic protection device, easily and intuitively deployed and retrieved.  The device is securely positioned in the aorta, protects its surface, while facilitating a seamless TAVR procedure.  The device’s distinctive, triple action design provides a full-body embolic protection by deflecting, capturing and removing embolic particles.  CAPTIS uniquely requires no additional arterial access and does not interfere with the procedure workflow.

Yokneam’s Filterlex Medical is a medical device startup in the cardiovascular field.  Filterlex develops a next generation embolic protection device (EPD) for reducing the risk of stroke and other complications during catheter-based left-heart procedures.  The device concept and unique structure were created out of deep understanding and knowledge of the unmet need and current products limitations.  The company’s founders have vast clinical knowledge and extensive experience in medical devices development, commercialization and marketing.  (Filterlex Medical 16.09)

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8.18  Canadian Hospital Specialties to Distribute Eitan Group’s Sapphire Infusion Systems in Canada

Eitan Group announced a distribution agreement with Canadian Hospital Specialties Ltd. (CHS), a national specialty distributor and manufacturer of medical and surgical products, to supply and support Eitan Group’s Sapphire infusion system hospital and alternate site customers across Canada.  Sapphire customers will receive immediate attention and support across Canada with CHS’s large, capable sales organization.  Eitan Group’s flagship Sapphire infusion systems are installed worldwide, with more than 100,000 devices in the market.  The robust infusion platform is lightweight with a small footprint, features an intuitive touch screen and is designed for ease-of-use, requiring minimal training for medical professionals.

Netanya’s Eitan Group is focused on infusion therapy and technologies, developing future-ready systems for hospital care and ambulatory settings, as well as wearable solutions for easy self-administration.  Eitan Group initially entered the infusion market in 2009, and a decade later, with data on over 18 million liters of infusions completed, now consists of three affiliate companies: Q Core Medical, Sorrel Medical and Avoset Health.  With a focus on innovating patient-centered care and safety, Eitan Group is reimagining infusion therapy with connected, software-based solutions.  (Eitan Group 16.09)

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8.19  SofWave Medical’s Low-divergence Ultrasound Technology Receives FDA Clearance

Sofwave Medical has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. FDA for its Sofwave system.  The Sofwave device is indicated for use as a non-invasive aesthetic treatment to improve facial lines and wrinkles.  The 510(k) clearance was supported by a blinded study of 59 subjects, demonstrating the safety and performance of the Sofwave System for non-invasive treatment to improve facial lines and wrinkles.  According to investigators’ evaluation, 86% of the subjects demonstrated improvement in wrinkle appearance of at least one Elastosis Score (-1ES), while the blinded reviewers identified correctly the pre- and post-treatment photographs for 78% of the treated subjects.

Following FDA clearance, the company will launch marketing and sales activities in the United States.  For this purpose, the company has already established an office in the US, which will be the base for all sales, marketing, clinical and customer support activities for the US market.

Yokneam’s SofWave Medical implements a novel approach to wrinkle reduction using proprietary Fractional Ultrasound.  SofWave Medical’s breakthrough technology brings a new option to non-invasive aesthetic treatments, providing physicians with smart yet simple, effective and safe aesthetic solutions for their patients.  The company was founded in 2015 by a multidisciplinary team of engineers, physicists and experienced professionals in the aesthetics market.  (SofWave Medical 16.09)

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9.1  Universal Electronics Selects SecuriThings for Cyber Security for Connected Devices

SecuriThings announced that it has delivered its Horizon solution to the leading IoT service provider, Scottsdale, Arizona’s Universal Electronics (UEI).  SecuriThings Horizon software-only solution provides UEI with 360-degree visibility and control over its managed IoT devices, detecting and mitigating cyber-attacks in real-time, while reducing operational costs.  SecuriThings and UEI have jointly delivered a case study that presents their breakthrough, data-driven approach to edge-to-edge IoT Security.

The cyber security blind spot of IoT providers over their managed devices generates concerns as the inherent vulnerability of IoT solutions turns them into prime targets for cyber-attacks such as brute force, IoT-specific malware, insider threats, IoT botnets, and more.  In fact, these connected devices, used for both consumer and commercial purposes, deployed across multiple home and enterprise networks, represent vulnerable entry points for hackers trying to reach critical assets and private data.

Ramat Gan’s SecuriThings is a leading IoT technology provider, solving the lack of visibility and control faced by enterprises and IoT service providers over their edge devices.  SecuriThings’ software-only solution, Horizon, uses AI-based technology to provide the ongoing cyber security posture and health status of each and every device.  With SecuriThings Horizon, organizations ensure their large-scale deployments of connected devices are always available and secure, all from a single pane of glass.  The company has established partnerships with world-leading global system integrators, device management systems and edge device vendors.  (SecuriThings 09.09)

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9.2  ISI and Balcony are Leading the Revolution in Situational Awareness on Demand

Or Yehuda’s ImageSat International (ISI), a leading end-to-end geospatial intelligence solutions company, is further expanding its presence in the geospatial data services market by establishing a collaboration with California’s, a location-based geo-communication platform.  The ‘Closeup’ solution, supported by BIRD Foundation, based on the ISI intelligence platform and capabilities and Balcony solution, proved itself in the last two years as a necessary intelligence tool for quick response in cases of disasters.

This partnership enables geo-data validation by seamlessly aggregating the power of high-resolution satellite imagery with the reach of smartphone users on the ground, providing a new level of insight into developing events.  The solution enables sending messages, alerts, or instructions, as well as receiving the necessary detailed ground-level info in the form of text, imagery, video, and live video precisely overlaid on the satellite imagery.  The collaboration proved to be fitting to dynamic reality through a quick follow-up on initial triggers by using a combination of high-resolution space imagery and a qualitative in-scene dimension provided by people on the ground.

The existing solution provides a real-time geographical snapshot for the first responders on the ground by incorporating advanced analytics based on artificial intelligence capabilities from deep learning and machine learning, along with extensive use of Big Data. ISI and Balcony’s innovative intelligence concept is based on the use of a cheap and ubiquitous sensor (smartphone) in sync with an observation satellite.  (ISI 09.09)

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9.3  SafeRide Technologies’ CAN Optimizer Unlocks Value of Connected Vehicle Data

SafeRide Technologies announced that CAN Optimizer, its ground-breaking machine learning-based data compression software for connected vehicles, has been validated by multiple leading OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers and is ready for production.  While uploading raw CAN data to the cloud can enable advanced data services, the process consumes a significant amount of costly bandwidth and storage.  Based on customer case studies, SafeRide’s CAN Optimizer dramatically decreases the bandwidth needed by providing a 96% reduction in data size.  CAN Optimizer provides a compression performance that is 6 times better than any other solution on the market.  The CAN Optimizer library was integrated and validated on several leading telematics chipsets, including the STMicroelectronics Telemaco3P, and consumed a fraction of the available processing power and memory of these devices.

Tel Aviv’s SafeRide Technologies is the provider of vSentry, the industry-leading multi-layer cybersecurity solution for connected and autonomous vehicles that combines state-of-the-art deterministic security solution with a groundbreaking AI profiling and anomaly detection technology to provide future-proof security and unlock data driven services.  SafeRide provides OEMs, fleet operators and automotive suppliers early detection and prevention of cyber-attacks, and helps to improve operational efficiency, avoid financial damage, prevent reputation loss, and save lives.  (SafeRide Technologies 09.09)

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9.4  ColorChip Introduces Ultra-Compact RGB Pico-Projector for SmartGlasses Applications

ColorChip introduced a highly innovative, ultra-compact, efficient RGB Pico-Projector based on a patented PLC SystemOnGlass (SOG) platform, advancing the core-technology eco-system required for Tethered and Standalone AR/VR SmartGlasses, where stringent demands on power efficiency and compactness are paramount.  The Augmented and Virtual reality market (AR/VR) is poised to pass a potential market inflection point in 2020, particularity if Apple SmartGlasses are launched towards the end of the year.  AR/VR is set to introduce a dramatic forth wave of consumer technology where advances in mobile AR/VR hardware and software will enable Ironman-like tethered and standalone SmartGlasses to complement and gradually replace mobile phones, driving a market from 10’s of millions of users in 2021 to more than a billion users by 2022-2023.

To support this market, ColorChip introduces a breakthrough RGB Pico-Projector addressing the needs of ultra-compactness, device efficiency and cost effectiveness.  The projector integrates ColorChip’s ColorMux RGB Beam Combiner with a MEMS scanner.  The ColorMux RGB Beam Combiner is based on ColorChip’s proprietary and patented optical waveguides embedded in a glass Planar Lightwave Circuit (PLC) and SystemOnGlass (SOG) integration & assembly technology.  ColorChip’s glass PLC platform is superior to other mediums as it supports the full spectrum of light from visible to infrared, is inherently low loss enabling high brightness display and includes a true integrated beam combiner to enable a speckle-free, high resolution image.  ColorChip’s SOG integration technology enables high RGB laser coupling efficiencies and true power monitoring.  The result is an ultra-compact display solution that is highly efficient, requires low power consumption, provides a high quality image and is ready for high volume, cost sensitive applications.

Yokneam’s ColorChip, established in 2001, is a technology innovator in the field of photonic integrated hybrids whose vision is to leverage its fully owned, industrialized optics-based FAB dedicated to the production of PLC based SystemOnGlass optical engines, whose glass platform is the ideal medium for emerging high speed transceiver and AR/VR projector applications.  (ColorChip 05.09)

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9.5  Guardicore & Mellanox Deliver Agentless Micro-Segmentation in Data Centers

Guardicore has partnered with Mellanox Technologies to deliver the first agentless and high-performance, low latency micro-segmentation solution for high speed 10G-100G networks.  The solution leverages both the Guardicore Centra security platform and Mellanox BlueField SmartNIC solutions to provide customers with hardware-embedded micro-segmentation security.  This integration allows customers using BlueField SmartNICs to support micro-segmentation requirements for high speed networks or when other agent-based solutions cannot be used.  The new solution is fully integrated and managed centrally by Guardicore Centra.

The joint Guardicore-Mellanox solution addresses the challenges faced by enterprises seeking to gain visibility and to protect application workloads in high speed networks where it is not possible or practical to deploy and operate agents across their infrastructures, such as in cases of high frequency trading, multi-tenant hosting with cloud providers, or management of third-party appliances.  The solution runs on the Mellanox BlueField SmartNIC, considered a computer on its own, and not on the enterprise infrastructure.  It uses hardware offload to support high-speed and low-latency requirements.  Deploying Guardicore technology on BlueField provides protection without compromising either the host or the compliance regulations in any way.  Additionally, running the Guardicore solution integrated on BlueField delivers unmatched enforcement performance – allowing or blocking traffic at wire speed and without any impact to server performance.  The solution gives enterprises the freedom to deploy Guardicore on every workload in any environment and at any scale, including private, public and hybrid cloud instances.

Yokneam’s Mellanox Technologies is a leading supplier of end-to-end Ethernet and InfiniBand smart interconnect solutions and services for servers and storage.  Mellanox interconnect solutions increase data center efficiency by providing the highest throughput and lowest latency, delivering data faster to applications, unlocking system performance and improving data security.  Tel Aviv’s Guardicore is a data center and cloud security company that protects your organization’s core assets using flexible, quickly deployed, and easy to understand micro-segmentation controls.  Their solutions provide a simpler, faster way to guarantee persistent and consistent security — for any application, in any IT environment.  (GuardiCore 05.09)

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9.6  Otonomo is Collaborating with Microsoft to Transform the Driving Experience

Herzliya Pituah’s Otonomo has been exchanging ideas with Microsoft about the future of connected cars and announced that the company will be collaborating with Microsoft on its Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform to expand the range of services available to automotive OEMs and to accelerate market adoption of such services and optimization solutions based on automotive data.  The Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform combines advanced cloud and edge computing services with a strong partner network to empower automotive companies to build connected driving experiences.

Through the new collaboration with Microsoft, Otonomo enables OEMs to quickly and easily make their connected car data more valuable for more next-generation services.  Patented technology within the platform reshapes and enriches data that was designed for vehicle operations so that it can be more easily applied to other use cases, from personal services like subscription-based fueling or EV charging, to optimization solutions relying on aggregate, anonymous data, such as smart city applications and traffic management.

Security and privacy are the real must-haves for the connected vehicle ecosystem.  Otonomo takes driver protection to the next level with two key capabilities that will also integrate with the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform:  the Otonomo Consent Management Hub – which provides a simple to use, straightforward process for drivers to grant or revoke permission for specific services that consume personal automotive data, and the Otonomo Dynamic Anonymization Engine – which applies a sophisticated combination of anonymization techniques at a use-case level, so that aggregate connected car data can be used for more applications without compromising privacy  (Otonomo 11.09)

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9.7  Primis Introduces Closed Captions

Primis, The Video Discovery Platform has begun rolling out Closed Captions as a default option for playlists across the Primis network.  This product update is the latest in Primis’s initiative to maintain an unmatched, industry-leading user experience.  While the feature is relatively common on other video channels, like Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix, Primis is among the first to implement the feature on a video ad unit.  The Primis unit will be using AI and machine learning tech from the GCP (Google Cloud Platform) in order to integrate automated Speech-to-Text into its platform.  These capabilities will be free for partners that are promoting their own content through the Primis unit.  This action was taken in order to ensure that our partners maintain the high UX standards that they have come to expect from Primis.

Tel Aviv’s Primis leverages machine learning technology to serve consumers with video content they are most likely to engage with.  The discovery engine is applied in a fully customizable video unit designed to fit natively in all websites.  Their video solution helps publishers add new monetization opportunities and drive deeper engagement with consumers.  (Primis 10.09)

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9.8  Valens Unveils Ultra-High-Speed Automotive Chipset with 16Gbps Bandwidth

Valens has unveiled its latest automotive chipset – the VA608A.  The VA608A chipset provides the high-speed bandwidth and resilience required for the many applications in the connected and autonomous car, guaranteeing a flexible and future-proof architecture.  The chipset delivers data transmission speeds of up to 16Gbps and enables automakers to extend native PCIe as a long-distance in-vehicle connectivity technology – up to 15m/50ft.  The VA608A is also the first and only chipset to enable 2.5Gb Ethernet over a single Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) wire with near-zero latency.

With the VA608A, Valens is introducing an innovative concept for long-distance PCIe connectivity, enabling OEMs and Tier-1s to utilize a wide array of existing components without requiring a complete redesign of the vehicle’s architecture.  This leads to reduced costs and wiring complexity, and the ability to utilize more powerful technologies with increased speed and functionality.  Valens’ PCIe extension technology is designed for many use cases in the vehicle including telematics, multi-modem smart antennas (5G, WiFi, WiGig, BT, etc.), ECU-to-ECU connectivity, and shared storage/black box storage. It also significantly simplifies high-speed, low latency, power-efficient backbone architecture.

Hod HaSharon’s Valens Automotive, a division of Valens, was established in 2015 with the singular goal of delivering the world’s most advanced audio/visual chipset technology to the automotive world.  Valens HDBaseT Automotive chip technology enables unparalleled in-vehicle connectivity, converging audio & video, Ethernet, USB, controls, PCIe and power over a single wire.  Valens’ patented technology is used by the world’s largest audio/video component manufacturers, enabling the highest quality of connectivity without the limitations of legacy infrastructure.  (Valens 10.09)

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9.9  Octopai’s Automated Business Glossary Creates a Common Language Across Departments

Octopai announced the release of its Automated Business Glossary, which leverages machine learning to synthesize data across enterprises and provide one authoritative source for all business operations.  This new module expands upon Octopai’s metadata management automation platform, joining its well-known Data Discovery and Data Lineage modules.  Through automated collection of all data items and descriptions from physical, semantic, and presentation layers, Octopai automates the creation, management and refresh of business glossaries, keeping them up-to-date and completely eliminating the need for any manual work or implementation projects.  Octopai’s automated business glossary saves organizations considerable time, effort, and money, and prevent risks associated with inaccurate data such as violations of compliance acts, like GDPR and CCPA.

Rosh HaAyin’s Octopai automates metadata management and analysis, enabling organizations to quickly, easily and accurately find and understand their data for improved operations, data quality and data governance.  The company was recognized as a Gartner Cool Vendor for Data Science and Machine Learning in 2018 and their investors include North First Ventures, Gefen Capital and iAngels.  (Octopai 10.09)

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9.10  Ingram Micro Teams With ITsMine for AI Based Data Loss Prevention

ITsMine will distribute its AI-based data loss prevention solution on Ingram Micro’s Cloud Marketplace as a trusted vendor partner.  Ingram Micro, the world’s largest distributor of technology, will offer ITsMine’s revolutionary DLP technology to its vast network of MSPs and value-added resellers around the world.  By joining the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace, ITsMine gains access to the industry’s most robust cloud ecosystem, comprised of more than 200 of the leading SaaS and IaaS solutions, and reaching tens of thousands of technology partners around the world.  A finalist of Ingram Micro’s 2018 Comet Competition, ITsMine’s next generation DLP solution protects organizations from both internal and external threats automatically.  Even after data has been leaked and used, security departments will be immediately alerted with forensic details.

Jerusalem’s ITsMine enables corporations to stay protected from internal and external data threats.  Founded in 2017 by a team of cyber security architecture experts, hackers, entrepreneurs and experienced software developers, ITsMine’s mission is to protect organizational data proactively, seamlessly and automatically, all while improving corporate compliance.  ITsMine’s next generation DLP provides alerts and gives critical forensic information even after data exfiltration. It is easy to implement, transparent to employees and IT teams and requires no endpoint agents.  (ITsMine 10.09)

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9.11  Elbit Systems Introduces Vehicular Anti-Drone Protection and Neutralization System

Addressing the increasing demand for protection of vehicles and convoys against hostile drones, Haifa’s Elbit Systems is introducing ReDrone Vehicular Tactical System, a vehicular configuration of the Company’s operational anti-drone protection and neutralization system.

Based on the field proven and operational ReDrone system, ReDrone Vehicular Tactical System detects, identifies and neutralizes all types of drones (at any radio frequency) within a radius of several kilometers, providing any vehicle with a 360 degrees protection shield against hostile drones.  Suitable for on-the-move or stationary operations, in day and night and in all weather conditions, ReDrone Vehicular Tactical System is offered for all types of military and para-military vehicles.

Rapidly deployable, ReDrone Vehicular Tactical System works automatically or manually, with no setup or operator control required for the entire process.  Its open architecture enables a full data flow to the vehicular control system and an effective interface with command and control centers.  With the detection of a hostile drone, the ReDrone Vehicular Tactical System neutralizes all communications between the drone and its operator, including radio, video and GPS signals.  The system is also capable of separating a drone’s signals from its operator’s remote control signals in order to locate and track each of them separately.  (Elbit 11.09)

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10.1  Israel’s Inflation Rate Rises by 0.2% in August

Israel’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 0.2% in August, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced, slightly higher than the economists’ predictions.  In the past twelve months to the end of August, the index rose 0.8%, moving closer to the government’s 1%-3% annual inflation target range.  Fresh fruit and vegetables led the price rises last month, up 4.2% while culture and entertainment prices rose 2.6%. Clothing prices fell 1.5% last month and telecom prices fell 0.7%.  The housing price index fell after months of rises. Home prices in the June-July period fell 0.3% in comparison with May-June. However, home prices have risen 0.7% over the past year.  (CBS 15.09)

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10.2  Israel’s Economy Grew by 3.6% in First Half

According to the second estimate by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the economy grew by 3.6% on an annualized basis in the first half of 2019.  This compares with 2.8% in the second half of 2018 and 3.5% in the first half of 2018.  The half yearly growth figure is a better indicator of the state of Israel’s economy than the quarterly figures, which were greatly influenced by the tax hike on cars at the end of the first quarter.  Consequently, the economy grew at just 1% in the second quarter of 2019 and 4.6% in the first quarter, after rising 4.2% in the fourth quarter of 2018.  Private consumption expenditure fell by 1.1% in the second quarter of 2019 after rising 4.2% in the first quarter of 2019 and 5.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018.  (CBS 16.09)

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10.3  Foreign Exchange Reserves at the Bank of Israel in August 2019 Over $119 Billion

Israel’s foreign exchange reserves at the end of August 2019 stood at $119.8 billion, a decline of $171 million from their level at the end of the previous month.  The reserves represent 31.9% of GDP.  The decline was the result of a revaluation that lowered the reserves by approximately $15 million, as well as private sector transfers of approximately $3 million and government transfers to abroad totaling approximately $155 million.  In contrast, the decline was partly offset by foreign exchange purchases by the Bank of Israel totaling $2 million.  (BOI 05.09)

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10.4  Immigration to Israel Increases by 21% in 2019

The Central Bureau of Statistics announced that 20,506 new immigrants came to Israel in the first seven months of 2019, including the children of Israeli citizens living abroad and who already have Israeli citizenship.  This is 21% higher than the 15,965 immigrants who came to Israel in the corresponding period of 2018.  In all of 2018, 31,601 immigrants came to Israel, compared with 28,220 in 2017.  Israel’s population is also being boosted by a decrease in emigration.  The annual emigration rate in 2017, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports (the number of Israelis not returning from abroad for more than a year) fell to 14,300 – the smallest number since 2010.  (CBS 09.09)

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11.1  JORDAN:  Ratings Affirmed At ‘B+/B’; Outlook Remains Stable

On 13 September, S&P Global Ratings affirmed its ‘B+/B’ long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Jordan.  The outlook remains stable.  At the same time, we affirmed our ‘B+’ long-term foreign currency issue rating on the sovereign-guaranteed bond of senior unsecured debt issued by The Development and Investment Projects Fund of the Jordan Armed Forces.


The stable outlook balances our expectation that, over the next 12 months, donor funding will continue to support the government’s financing needs and keep debt-servicing costs low, against the risk that the government will significantly increase spending to alleviate social and economic challenges.

We could lower our ratings on Jordan if we saw higher debt accumulation by the central government or state-owned enterprises (SOEs), such as National Electric Power Company (NEPCO).  We could also lower the ratings if funding sources became strained, for example if strong bilateral and multilateral donor support were to diminish.

We could raise the ratings if Jordan’s external imbalances narrowed, supported by a more diversified export base, and if foreign investment were to rebound markedly, boosting foreign exchange reserves.  We could also see ratings upside stem from the government’s fiscal and energy reforms if it manages to reduce net government debt levels faster than anticipated while maintaining low borrowing costs.


The ratings on Jordan are constrained by the economy’s large external financing needs, which are driven by sizable current account deficits.  Ongoing pressures from regional conflicts have resulted in refugee inflows that have materially increased the population, while slowing the country’s per capita growth trajectory.

The ratings are supported by the authorities’ macro-fiscal reforms and measures taken to reduce losses at SOEs, including a comprehensive energy reform plan.  We project net general government debt will gradually decrease over the forecast horizon through 2022, partly supported by ongoing large purchases of government securities by the Social Security Investment Fund (SSIF).  We expect that further international assistance, particularly from the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), would be forthcoming if needed.  This continues to support our ratings on Jordan.

Institutional and economic profile: Economic expansion will gradually improve

-Social pressures remain high, and we anticipate the government will prioritize growth-related spending and slow the pace of fiscal reforms.

-We expect donors to continue to support Jordan through grants (albeit declining) and concessional funding to maintain political stability.

-We forecast real GDP growth to steadily improve to 3% by end-2022, supported by public and private investment and rising exports.

Several external shocks – including the disruption of Egyptian gas supplies and the Syrian conflict, which led to the closure of key export routes to Iraq and Syria – have strained Jordan’s policymaking and public finances.  Large refugee inflows, resulting in a population increase of 50% since 2011, and security concerns have also weighed on public resources.  In particular, rising military, medical, and education costs have eroded Jordan’s fiscal position and increased public debt levels, as well as heightened its dependence on donor support.

Given the challenging environment, we expect that risks to Jordan’s public finances will persist.  The Extended Fund Facility program from the International Monetary Fund continues to provide a fiscal policy anchor.  We anticipate, however, that the pace of central government fiscal consolidation will decelerate, with greater emphasis on growth-enhancing measures and employment creation.  Renewed protests against fiscal reforms, similar to those in mid-2018, are possible, but our base case is that they will not be widespread enough to result in social upheaval. In our view, centralized decision-making clouds the visibility on future policy responses.  Policy predictability is further affected given Jordan’s changing demographics and the rising desire for greater political participation among sections of the population.

We expect international support for Jordan to remain strong.  Jordan is one of the most politically stable countries in the region, and maintaining this relative stability is an important foreign policy objective for the U.S. and the GCC.  The U.S. has committed to providing economic and military aid of at least $1.275 billion (about 3% of the 2019 GDP) annually over 2018-2022.  Exceptionally, the U.S. Congress approved a higher disbursement of $1.52 billion in 2018 and 2019.  The GCC also stepped in following the protests in June 2018, and GCC countries (excluding Qatar) pledged an aid package of $2.5 billion over five years in the form of deposits and project finance.  Qatar has promised to provide $500 million, as well as jobs for around 10,000 Jordanians in Qatar.

In addition, Jordan benefits from concessional lending from bilateral partners and multilateral agencies, which have been important sources of financing for the twin fiscal and external deficits.  During the London Initiative Conference in February 2019, several donor partners made funding pledges exceeding $5 billion.  Furthermore, the U.S. had guaranteed Eurobonds issued by Jordan over 2013-2016 of $3.75 billion, of which the first bond of $1.00 billion matured in June 2019.  Jordan has upcoming guaranteed Eurobond redemptions of $1.25 billion in 2020 and $1.00 billion in 2022.  It is unclear to what extent the U.S. will guarantee future issuance by the Jordanian government.

We project that real GDP growth will increase over the next four years, to 3.0% in 2022 from 2.2% in 2019.  The government, led by Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, has outlined an ambitious growth plan to improve competitiveness, foreign investment, and exports.  We expect key growth drivers to be public and private investment into priority sectors such as energy, water, and transport; rising exports of goods and services to Iraq and the EU (given easing conditions of the rules-of-origin agreement in late 2018); and tourism.  In February 2019, Jordan and Iraq signed several agreements, including the restoration of customs exemptions on several Jordanian goods, the export of Iraqi oil to Jordan at concessional rates, a door-to-door freight transport agreement, and the establishment of a joint industrial free economic zone at the border.

Regional and domestic political developments have significantly affected foreign investment, especially in 2018, while weakened macroeconomic activity in the GCC also reduced remittances.  The Syrian conflict has abated but security risks remain elevated.  At the same time, the unemployment rate is still high at about 19%.

Jordan’s economic growth has not kept up with the rapid rise in its population.  Factoring in our growth forecasts through 2022, the 10-year weighted-average annual real GDP per capita growth will likely be approximately negative 0.9%, lagging peers at similar income levels.  However, population growth has slowed since the closing of the borders with Syria in June 2016.  We do not see a material risk of large Syrian refugee inflows following the border reopening, but we also do not anticipate a substantial number of refugees returning to Syria at this time.

Flexibility and performance profile: Net general government debt levels will gradually decline

-Implementation of the government’s energy reforms could be key to reducing energy costs and stabilizing SOE debt.

-We project the government will rely more on external concessional loans to fund budget deficits as grants continue to decline.

-External financing needs will remain high at around 160% of current account receipts and usable reserves over 2019-2022.

Jordan’s general government fiscal position reflects deficits at the central government level averaging close to 3% of GDP over 2015-2018, which are offset by surpluses at the Social Security Corporation (SSC) of a similar magnitude, resulting in overall general government deficits of almost zero.  We include the accounts of SSC and local governments in the general government’s, as per our sovereign criteria.

Weak economic environment and social pressures delayed some fiscal reforms during 2018, including amendments to the income tax law and increases in general sales taxes (GSTs).  While the reported central government deficit inched down to 2.4% of GDP in 2018, from 2.6% in 2017, there was significant off-budget spending of about 1.0% of GDP last year.  We expect the central government’s deficit will decline to 2.4% in 2022 from an estimated 2.7% of GDP in 2019.

We anticipate that the pace of fiscal measures will be slower than over 2015-2017, and we expect central government debt will remain broadly stable through 2022.  We understand that the government does not plan to raise GSTs, but rather focus on strengthening tax administration and reducing tax evasion.  We expect fiscal gains of about 0.5% of GDP will accrue this year from the implementation of the new income tax law passed in December 2018, which lowers the personal tax exemption threshold and broadens the tax base.  This, combined with recent measures such as the removal of tax exemptions on hybrid and electric cars, will partly offset an expected increase in spending and decline in budget grants.

The government’s energy sector roadmap could be key to improving public finances and reducing energy import costs in the medium term.  Key elements of the energy plan include: (1) gradual shift from liquefied natural gas to cheaper natural gas from Egypt and the Leviathan field in Israel from 2020 and renewable energy; (2) expanding and developing new electricity grids to neighbors including the Palestinian Authority and Iraq, increasing export income; (3) revision of NEPCO’s tariff mechanism (under study) that would better reflect its cost structure; and (4) potential debt reprofiling of NEPCO’s debt through donor funds.

The weak performance of NEPCO and Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ) in recent years has created significant financial costs for the government.  Despite implementing an automatic tariff adjustment mechanism linked to global oil prices, NEPCO continued to suffer operating losses in 2018 and during April-June 2019.  At the same time, higher electricity tariffs worsened WAJ’s overall deficit (including temporary arrears).  The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has centralized WAJ’s debt-servicing and capital expenditure to reduce its interest costs.  The MoF also directly services about half of NEPCO’s debt payments.  We include the government-guaranteed debt of NEPCO and WAJ of around 11% of GDP in 2018 in our government debt stock calculations.

We note that the surpluses at the SSC have supported strong growth of assets in its investment arm, the SSIF, which allows them to continue increasing their holdings of government securities.  The SSIF held around 18% of total public debt in 2018, from about 11% in 2013.  Net general government, after adjusting the central government’s deposits and SSIF liquid assets, is much lower at about 63% of GDP, compared with gross public debt of 94% in 2018.  We continue to view the SSIF as a voluntary source of domestic funding, as there is also appetite from domestic banks to buy government securities.  However, our view could change if we saw a rapidly increasing accumulation of SSIF’s exposure to the government.

We anticipate that the government will also raise more external debt, primarily on a concessional basis, over 2019-2022 to meet its funding needs and simultaneously attempt to lengthen its debt maturity profile.  Although borrowing costs remain low as a result of past concessional borrowing, new debt issuances could cause interest costs to rise.  The $1 billion U.S.-guaranteed Eurobond that matured in June 2019 carried a coupon rate of 1.95% and was refinanced through a World Bank funding facility of $725 million at 4% (with guarantees from the U.K. and Saudi Arabia) and the rest through a U.S.-dollar issuance to domestic banks at market rates.  We expect debt-servicing costs will gradually increase to about 10.2% of total revenue by 2022.

Although Jordan’s current account deficit decreased markedly in 2018, a halving of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows led to a continued decline in foreign exchange reserves.  Total foreign exchange reserves have declined by about $2.2 billion between 2016 and 2018 because of high external financing needs, lower financial account inflows, and rising deposit dollarization.  Deposits from GCC countries into the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) of $1.2 billion in 2018 did not offset this decline.  However, we expect foreign currency reserves will improve somewhat from 2019, mainly on the back of higher FDI and debt inflows.

We forecast that gradually declining current account deficits from 2019 will stabilize external financing needs at an average of 160% of current account receipts and usable reserves over 2019-2022.  We expect current account receipts will benefit from rising exports to Iraq and tourism revenue as the regional security environment stabilizes.  We do not anticipate material upside to exports in the near term from the reopening of the Nassib border with Syria in October 2018, because political relations remain strained.

The Jordanian dinar’s peg to the U.S. dollar supports price stability, although it also limits the central bank’s room for policy maneuver.  The CBJ follows the U.S. Federal Reserve in hiking interest rates to maintain competiveness of the Jordanian dinar, and it reduced all policy rates by 25 basis points in August.  We expect inflation to slow to 1.5%-3.0% over the next four years after peaking at 4.5% in 2018, supported by lower energy costs.

While domestic private credit growth has slowed since 2017 on the back of rising interest rates and subdued economic activity, we note that it has exceeded nominal GDP growth in recent years.  The CBJ continues to provide subsidized rates of 1.75% in Amman and 1.00% outside Amman for lending to key economic sectors including industry, tourism, agriculture and renewable energy.  We see risks to the banking system from a potential deterioration in asset quality due to high lending concentrations to cyclical sectors, mostly construction and real estate.  Nonetheless, banks remain adequately capitalized.  (S&P 13.09)

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11.2  SAUDI ARABIA:  Saudi Arabia has a New Energy Minister – What it Means for Oil

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz named his son Prince Abdulaziz as the country’s energy minister, replacing Khalid Al-Falih, who led three years of active OPEC diplomacy to forge a global alliance with producers such as Russia to limit production in order to prop up prices.

Who is the new minister in charge?

Prince Abdulaziz served as deputy petroleum minister for a dozen years and most recently as minister of state for energy since 2017.  He is an older half-brother of the influential Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though the pair aren’t believed to be close and are quite far apart in age.  Prince Abdulaziz’s years in the ministry prepare him for the top role.

He has been a member of Saudi Arabia’s delegation to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and is a regular participant at the group’s meetings on production policy.  He has a reputation for diligence and an ability to bridge differences between Saudi ministers and those of other members of the organization.  He was instrumental in managing oil affairs during the 1990 Gulf War and the secret talks with Mexico and Venezuela that led to output cuts which helped raise prices during that decade.

Promoting an oil policy that boosts prices to a level that can sustain government spending – a price some $25 a barrel higher than it is now – may be the top priority for the new energy minister.  That task is even more urgent as the Crown Prince drives a reform plan to revamp the economy and forge new industries to wean the country off its reliance on oil.  Higher prices would also support a richer valuation for the planned sale of a stake in state oil producer Saudi Aramco.

“From a policy perspective, we don’t see a significant change,” Majd Dola, portfolio manager at First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC, said on Bloomberg TV.  “Maybe fresh blood might bring some new tactic to the table in terms of negotiations, but it’s not a surprise that the kingdom is trying to control the oil price, trying to push it higher.”

How the appointment changes things

Prince Abdulaziz’s promotion concentrates the kingdom’s levers of oil policy-making directly in the hands of the royal family.  While the Saudi king always had final say on decisions of government strategy, civil servants had headed the oil ministry since its founding six decades ago.

The Crown Prince heads a committee overseeing Saudi Aramco.  The energy minister had served as chairman at the producer, formally known as Saudi Arabian Oil Co., until Al-Falih recently had the role stripped from him.  Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the head of the sovereign wealth fund and an ally of the Crown Prince, took the role.

Those changes give the Al-Saud family direct oversight over both the company’s activities and the country’s oil policy.  Without a minister to take the fall for policy missteps, however, the responsibility for the outcome of oil strategy decisions will fall squarely on the royals.

What’s at Stake?

The most unforgivable failure for a Saudi energy minister is an inability to keep oil prices high enough to support government spending.  While the king didn’t give a reason for replacing Al-Falih in the Saudi Press Agency’s announcement of the decision, Brent crude at about $60 a barrel isn’t enough to fund the Saudi budget, which needs prices at $80 a barrel or more.

Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, brought non-members like Russia into the group’s plan to trim output.  While that worked at first, concerns over demand and the potential for looming economic hardship have halted oil’s ascent.

Al-Falih was the architect of the so-called OPEC+ policy, visiting frequently with his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak to bring some dozen other producers into the fold and to pressure countries to uphold their parts of the bargain.  Prince Abdulaziz will have to continue those relations to maintain the policy — or persuade others a change is needed.

Saudi Arabia’s Options

Saudi Arabia is unlikely to push for the coalition to make deeper cuts as this may fail to support oil prices for a number of reasons, mainly a potential increase in US shale production and the risk that other OPEC+ nations may be tempted to restore output, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said in a report.  OPEC may need to hold off on further market intervention and brace for “harder times” as the trade war and faltering demand cloud the economic outlook, it said.

Sanford C. Bernstein analysts including Neil Beveridge said OPEC needs to deepen current output cuts by 1 million barrels a day in 2020 to defend prices at $60 a barrel in the face of rising non-OPEC supply.  Inventories may start to build again from late September, and demand growth is seen at 1.2 million barrels a day in 2020, which is set to be eclipsed by an increase in non-OPEC supply growth of 2.2 million barrels a day, they said.  (AB 08.09)

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11.3  TURKEY:  Crisis-Hit Turkey Suffers Erosion in Investments

Mustafa Sonmez posted in Al-Monitor on 8 September that Turkey’s gross domestic product shrank 1.5% year-on-year in the second quarter, according to official figures, with a dramatic decrease in investments standing out as a major driver of the contraction.  The decline in investments — both in the private and public sector — has been going on for 12 months, bearing heavily on joblessness.

It was the third quarter in a row that the Turkish economy has shrunk.  The trend is likely to continue for at least another quarter, as leading indicators point to ongoing contraction in the July-September period.  The Turkish Statistical Institute is scheduled to release the third-quarter figure on 2 December.

The contraction is even more striking in terms of dollars.  The Turkish economy was measured to be worth some $950 billion in 2013.  In the ensuing years, the Turkish lira slipped against the dollar and the economy’s worth fell to $789 billion in 2018.  In the first half of 2019, the figure stood at $722 billion on a year-on-year basis.  GDP per capita, meanwhile, was $8,800, down from $12,000 in 2014.  In other words, Turkey’s GDP and GDP per capita in terms of dollars have sharply declined — especially over the past two years — under the combined impact of a depreciating currency and the economic downtick.

In terms of production, the only sector that grew in the second quarter was agriculture, expanding by 3.4%.  In contrast, the industry contracted by about 3% and the construction sector by a staggering 12.5%, while the services sector shrank 0.3%.

The downturn in construction has clearly hit industrial branches that supply materials to builders.  Industrial production data show significant decreases in the outputs of manufacturers of cement, bricks, paint, glass, wood, iron and steel.  They are followed by manufacturers of durable goods such as cars, white appliances, furniture and electronics, which have been hit by shrinking domestic demand.

Looking at the spending side, one could observe that the second-quarter contraction was limited to 1.5% thanks to the positive impact of public spending and exports.  Public spending increased 3.4% from April to June, with net exports also contributing some growth.  Still, the decline in the households’ domestic demand and the huge decrease in investments were hard to offset, resulting in an overall contraction of 1.5%.

Investments in the second quarter fell nearly 23% from the same period last year, marking the worst quarter for investments in the past decade.  Moreover, it was the fourth quarter in a row that investments have fallen.  Cumulatively, this 12-month period saw a nearly 8% decrease in investments year-on-year.

The slump in construction investments was especially sharp.  With builders already grappling with unsold housing stocks, a spike in inflation and foreign exchange prices, followed by an increase in interest rates on the lira, further suppressed their investment appetite.  The inflation in construction materials prices had reached nearly 40% at one point before easing to 20%, and few could brave investing amid such price volatility, focusing instead on efforts to destock.

The industry faced similar predicaments, forcing domestic and foreign entrepreneurs alike to freeze any investment plans.  The steep declines in Turkey’s imports of investment goods and intermediate goods are the direct result of the suppressed appetite for investment.

In previous years, builders would borrow from abroad to launch new projects, but the fragility of the lira and unstable foreign currency prices have now deterred them from seeking external loans.  The private sector’s foreign exchange deficit is already more than $185 billion.

The shrinking domestic demand, especially for housing and durable goods, has been the most important factor discouraging investments.  Also, foreign creditors have been reluctant to issue investment loans, wary of Turkey’s risk premium.  The country’s credit default swaps — a key risk indicator — have been hovering in the region of 400 basis points, roughly double the risk premium of Turkey’s closest peer, South Africa.

The decline in investments is of direct concern to the jobless masses awaiting work opportunities.  The wait is likely to be long, both for the skilled and unskilled idle labor force.  As of May, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 14% and the number of jobless reached nearly 4.5 million, increasing by 1.1 million over 12 months.  Of note, the figure denotes only those actively looking for jobs, excluding the jobless who have given up on the search.

Out of the 1.1 million who joined the army of jobless over a year, 870,000 are people who lost jobs, while the remaining are newcomers to the labor market who have not had the chance to start working.  Out of the 870,000 people who lost their jobs, 538,000 were from the construction sector, which was the first to plunge into crisis last year.  The industrial sector laid off 123,000 people, while another 307,000 lost jobs in the agricultural sector.

Reviving the investment climate requires a series of coherent economic steps as well as the restitution of confidence among local and foreign investors, especially politically, and the reduction of the country’s risk premium.

Mustafa Sonmez is a Turkish economist and writer. He has worked as an economic commentator and editor for more than 30 years and authored some 30 books on the Turkish economy, media and the Kurdish question.  (Al-Monitor 08.09)

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