UAE, Saudi technology sectors mature as investors prepare for exits says ICAEW

Hanadi Khalife - Head of Middle East

The technology sectors in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are entering a pivotal phase of maturity and business owners can start expecting exits soon. That was the view of experts gathered for ICAEW’s Corporate Finance Faculty event held in October. Moderated by Zubin Chiba, Partner – M&A, Corporate Finance, PwC, the discussion centred around the current shift and maturity in the GCC’s technology venture capital and acquisition landscape. He was joined by:

  • Khalid Talhouni, Managing Partner, Nuwa Capital
  • Kushal Shah, Managing Director of Ventures, e& Capital
  • Suhail Miraz, Corporate Partner, Al Tamimi & Co

The GCC technology sector has long been in its early stages with factors such as expensive financing, unstable prices, market volatility and venture capital reticence slowing down investment exits. However, the panellists noted the landscape is slowly shifting due to a drive from regional governments, and increased interest from larger acquisition firms to Acqui-hire – acquiring for talent.

Given the scale of projects and budgets being approved within the GCC recently, the speakers highlighted the opportunities that lie ahead, especially in the UAE and KSA. They have become focal points for ambitious projects with substantial capital infused, fostering a thriving technology ecosystem, setting them up for accelerated growth and innovation.

The experts also noted that the technology sector’s influence extends beyond only tech-focused companies. The ability to collect and use data effectively and the scalability of operations are now crucial criteria for evaluating companies, even those rooted in traditional brick-and-mortar operations. Companies that harness data and scale solutions are better placed in the financial evaluation landscape.

With the rise of AI and automation technology, the expert panel also predicted a deflation in tech start-up capital. Similar to how cloud services reduced the need for physical server rooms, which brought down the capital required, AI and automation could lower start-up capital requirements by automating tasks and reducing headcount. While the technology is still evolving, the panel was confident in its potential to reshape the start-up landscape.

Hanadi Khalife, Head of Middle East, ICAEW, said: “As the tech business landscape grows more connected and complex, chartered accountants must strategically guide their organisations and clients, inspiring confidence through due diligence and coherent methodologies.

“The chartered accountancy profession has long played the role of a trusted third-party opinion, assisting companies and industries in their decisions. Their contributions to financial planning, risk management, and compliance are instrumental in steering organisations towards success in the ever-evolving technology sector. As the industry matures and the stakes grow higher, chartered accountants continue to serve as indispensable guardians of financial stability and drivers of strategic growth.”

Hanadi Khalife - Head of Middle East
Hanadi Khalife – Head of Middle East