Skip to main content

Could Saudi Arabia spark tech startup IPO boom in Middle East?

With startups outside the Gulf focused on survival amid a funding drought, the Saudi pipeline could boost investor interest in companies typically seen as too risky.
A man monitors the board at Tadawul, the Saudi stock exchange, Riyadh, Dec. 12, 2019.

Reddit’s $748 million initial public offering (IPO) had investors watching closely to see if the social media platform’s trading debut in New York on March 21 could help fuel a rebound in coveted US tech listings and drive a broader IPO market revival after a two-year drought. It comes at a time when no such recovery is needed in the Middle East, where Gulf countries have defied global trends by pumping out IPOs.

During 2022/23, Middle Eastern stock markets welcomed 99 IPOs, raising roughly $33 billion combined, according to Ernst & Young data. Yet, this boom featured few tech offerings, which remain rare on regional exchanges outside of Israel. That could, however, change.

On March 25, Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority approved the IPO registration of online insurance platform operator Rasan, and on March 14 Bloomberg reported that Alef, an Abu Dhabi–based education-tech company, had tapped bankers for an IPO. Both followed Saudi e-commerce software startup Salla revealing a $130 million pre-IPO investment that month. The three join a growing list of local tech firms signaling plans to go public.

Despite a broader downturn in venture capital funding and falling valuations, local best-of-breed startups continue securing significant sums from investors — headlined by Saudi fintechs Tabby and Tamara, which both now sport billion-dollar valuations. Meanwhile, Gulf states are encouraging listings amid efforts to deepen capital markets and attract foreign investment, sparking a privatization spree that is producing major issuances, such as Abu Dhabi’s $2.5 billion mega-IPO of ADNOC Gas in 2023. The wave has grown to include everything from broadcasting giant MBC to the potential for Etihad Airways to become the first premier Gulf airline to go public. 

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.