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Saudi market could be seeing its first tech IPO with food delivery app Jahez

Riyadh: Saudi food delivery firm Jahez has hired HSBC Holdings Plc's local unit to help manage what could be the first listing by a tech startup in the kingdom.

Jahez International Company for Information Technology picked HSBC Saudi Arabia as the sole financial adviser and global coordinator for its potential IPO on Nomu, the Saudi stock exchange's secondary market, which imposes lighter listing requirements to encourage smaller businesses and startups to raise equity.

Founded in 2016, the homegrown firm serves around 2 million customers in the kingdom, and processed about 20 million restaurant orders through its app in 2020. It closed a $36.5 million funding round last year.

"We will continue to expand our platform to tap into new growth opportunities offered by rapid, technology-enabled changes in consumer behavior, both in Saudi Arabia and in the wider region," said Ghassab Al Mandeel, CEO at Jahez. Food delivery companies have been flooded with cash from investors betting the pandemic brought a permanent shift in shopper habits.

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Hit IPO trail

Startups including Turkish retail delivery app Getir and Berlin-based grocery delivery app Gorillas have rapidly hit billion-dollar valuations. In the UK, Deliveroo raised 1.5 billion pounds ($2.1 billion) in its listing March 31 but then saw its shares plunge more than 30 per cent.

Jahez is the biggest locally owned player in the kingdom, competing with the likes of Uber Technologies Inc.-owned Careem Now and Delivery Hero SE-backed Hunger Station and Talabat. Jahez has also been expanding in other areas such as last-mile logistics and cloud kitchens.

Saudi grocery delivery app Nana also raised $18 million last year, tapping investors including venture capital fund STV and Middle East Venture Partners to expand across the Middle East. Saudi Arabia's consumer spending is on the mend, with its non-oil economy - the engine of job creation - rebounding in the first quarter to pre-pandemic levels following a recession.

Jahez said "an improving Saudi economy and the resulting rise in employment and disposable income" will fuel further food and e-commerce spending.