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South Korea’s Naver Wins Saudi Deal to Build Digital Replicas of Mecca, Riyadh

(Bloomberg) -- South Korean internet leader Naver Corp. won a contract to build and operate a cloud platform for Saudi Arabia, securing its first major high-tech export to the Middle East.

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Naver’s announcement came as South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and heads of major companies including Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. are visiting Saudi Arabia. They’re trying to win some of the kingdom’s industrial and mega projects, such as in Neom, a vast new city the Saudi government is building in the desert that is expected to cost over $500 billion.

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Read more: South Korea, Saudi to Sign $15.6 Billion in Deals

Naver will build and operate so-called digital twins or virtual versions of five cities, including Riyadh, Medina and Mecca, the company said in a statement Tuesday.

The digital twins provide real-time simulation capabilities and will be used for city planning, monitoring and flood forecasting in Saudi Arabia for five years, it said.

Naver shares jumped as much as 3.2% in early trading in Seoul, their biggest intraday gain in six weeks.

The Korean company, which provides everything from a search engine to generative artificial intelligence, cloud and mapping services, beat a handful of global tech firms to secure the project. In March, Naver signed a non-binding agreement with Saudi Arabia to work together on digital transformation. Since then, Naver has hosted more than nine visits by senior Saudi officials at its second headquarters in Korea, a high-tech edifice where more than 100 robots roam around delivering coffee and meals.

--With assistance from Shinhye Kang.

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