Iraqi Airways to start direct flights to Abu Dhabi

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DUBAI: Network International, the UAE-based digital payment processor, is pushing ahead with its expansion into Saudi Arabia this year, once pandemic-related restrictions are eased.

“We remain excited by the opportunity in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the largest payments markets in the MEA (Middle East and Africa) region,” Nandan Mer, Group CEO at Network International, said in a statement to Arab News.

“Saudi Arabia remains an important future growth accelerator for the business and, we believe, could become our second largest market over time. We intend to progress with our market entry as soon as border restrictions ease and when more normal circumstances resume,” he said.

Established as a fully owned subsidiary of Emirates Bank (now Emirates NBD) in 1994, Network International listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2019, with a valuation of £2.2 billion ($3.04 billion). The same year, global payments giant Mastercard invested $300 million in the company and became one of its largest shareholders. 

Present across the Middle East and Africa, the company’s move into the Kingdom comes as its latest annual report showed that noncash payments processed by Network International in Saudi Arabia grew from 8 percent of total transactions in the country in 2017 to 16 percent in 2019, making it tied with Nigeria as the company’s fastest growing market.

According to its latest annual report for 2020, the company is planning to spend $20 million financing its expansion into the Saudi market.

Overall, Network International’s total revenue declined 15.1 percent year-on-year in 2020 to $284.8 million, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) was down 33.2 percent to $112.6 million over the same period. Despite this, the company's share price has increased 36.37 percent in the past year.

The number of digital payment transactions in the Kingdom surged 75 percent in 2020 as Saudi consumers embraced online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The total number of digital transactions last year amounted to about 2.8 billion, an increase of 75 percent compared with the same period in the previous year. The value of these transactions amounted to about SR349 billion ($93.7 billion), an increase of nearly 24.1 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

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