Japan’s SBI looks to Saudi Aramco as it continues Middle East expansion


Japan’s SBI Holdings financial services firm and Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco are considering teaming up on digital asset investment and semiconductor production projects. The sides signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation that includes the establishment of SBI Middle East in Riyadh as a base for operations in that region. 

According to the MoU, signed Dec. 7, SBI and Saudi Aramco will consider collaborating in the field of digital assets and co-investing in their digital asset portfolios. They may identify Japanese digital asset startups that could be interested in expanding to Saudi Arabia and launch semiconductor production projects in both countries. In addition:

“The scope of the alliance may be expanded upon agreement between the Company and Aramco.”

Saudi Aramco is the world’s second-largest corporation by revenue, after Walmart. The MoU mentioned Saudi Aramco investments aimed at complementing its supply chain. Cryptocurrency is “not recognized by legal entities” in Saudi Arabia, although the government has shown a healthy interest in Web3. SBI Holdings’ partnership with Taiwan-based Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing was also highlighted.

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This is the latest step SBI Holdings has taken to establish a presence in the Middle East. In November, it entered into a joint venture with the British bank Standard Chartered’s fintech investment arm SC Ventures to create an investment company in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to invest in “market infrastructure, risk management and compliance tools, DeFi, tokenization, consumer payments, and the metaverse.”

In September, SBI Holdings and UAE-based TradeFinex partnered on a joint venture based in Japan to localize TradeFinex’s XDC Network enterprise blockchain there.

SBI Holdings is Ripple’s largest outside shareholder. It has been a Ripple partner since 2018. In late November, SBI Holdings announced an MoU with Circle that would boost USDC (USDC) circulation and Web3 services in Japan, subject to regulatory approval.

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