Saudi Arabia map — Photo

Animoca Brands makes concerted push into the Middle East with Saudi Arabia as first port of call

Web3 venture capital firm Animoca Brands is making a foray into the Middle East after conquering the Southeast Asian markets. The Hong Kong-based firm is considering injecting funds worth “millions of dollars” in the Middle East.

Animoca says it is drawn toward the Middle East by the region’s burgeoning young population and rising gaming culture. Yat Siu, CEO of Animoca Brands, told South China Morning Post in an interview that despite the lengthy “crypto winter,” new frontiers could offer exciting opportunities for investors.

Saudi Arabia will be the first recipient of Animoca’s Brands expansion, with the VC fund keen on collaborating with Manga Productions, a company with extensive links to Saudi’s crown prince dabbling in animations and gaming. The collaboration will see both entities launch a Web3-themed project aimed at improving blockchain technology (DLT) adoption.

Siu disclosed that plans to extend its reach into the Middle East stem from the recent visit of Hong Kong’s chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu to the region. Lee made official visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which Siu says “legitimizes and validates the relationships between the parties.”

In November, Animoca Brands unveiled a new $2 billion metaverse fund focusing on firms in the early stages of their growth. Lingering and unfavorable market conditions in the digital asset space forced the firm’s hand to slash the fund by half to settle at $1 billion.

“We had initially looked at a target of $1 billion, whether it goes upsized or downsized, we don’t know yet,” said Siu. “Given the market circumstances, it could be less.”

With the fund set to be disbursed in early 2023, it is widely expected that firms in the Middle East experimenting with virtual worlds stand a higher chance of receiving funding from the industry behemoth.

Hong Kong to the world

While Hong Kong-based firms are expanding their reach, the country is keen on attracting global digital firms to set up operations within its borders. This is in response to a flight of companies from Hong Kong to new jurisdictions like Singapore and the Bahamas.

To lure digital asset firms back to the country, Hong Kong has given the green light for digital currency exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and allowed retail investors to trade digital currencies within six months. Siu described the push as “unprecedented in Hong Kong’s history,” which could position the country “as a leader in the space.”

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