OVERSEAS INVESTMENT

Dubai 2018 | ECONOMY | B2B

Firms are leveraging their success in a robust but unpredictable domestic market to excel just as much abroad.

Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed S. Al Nehayan
SHEIKH KHALED BIN ZAYED S. AL NEHAYAN
Chairman
Bin Zayed Group
Adil AL Zarooni
ADIL AL ZAROONI
CEO
Al Zarooni Emirates Investments (ZEI)

What is it about Dubai's macroeconomy that has allowed you to grow?

SHEIKH KHALED BIN ZAYED S. AL NEHAYAN The Bin Zayed Group was established in 1988 as a construction company and gradually diversified into real estate, investment, and technology. These are the three sectors we mainly focus on with a particular emphasis on the investment sector. It is natural for families in Dubai to be involved in more than one business because of the flexibility and opportunities on offer. Even in times when the economy is not doing well, Dubai offers opportunities because it is at a crossroads of economic activity. At Bin Zayed Group, we have always been looking to capture some of those opportunities, which is how we have grown to become a diversified holding. Dubai has always been a hub and intersection for the business community in the region. Anybody with sound ideas on how to connect or utilize the strong points of Dubai to do business within the region will benefit significantly. The onus is on investors to match their strengths with Dubai's capabilities.

ADIL AL ZAROONI In recent years, we sought to diversify into specific sectors: financial services and logistics, although cyclical, are still key pillars in Dubai's economy, in addition to healthcare, education, technology, and F&B. We have been quite successful in the healthcare sector because we entered the market at a great time with good partners. Our main focus within the sector has been on non-hospital-based services such as home nursing, long-term healthcare, rehabilitation, and fertility. All of these have expanded beyond the UAE. We have also had a number of highly successful exits from green field projects that have become quite substantial in size and quality. Our business strategy is to build and then sell within five to seven years, creating value in partnership with globally reputable operators, investors, and regional families. We have a number of successful ventures in the financial services sector with an investment bank and private equity and SME setups. One of these is quite substantial, while the rest are in their adolescent stage, but still have interesting potential.

Where are you looking for expansion?

KBZSAN One major recent accomplishment has been our move into the Indian and Chinese markets. We have been looking at these two for quite some time and have been studying and developing relationships over the last five years. These markets are not simple to deal with; you need to be sure the foundation is right when you decide to make a move. India has a huge need for infrastructure and could absorb up to USD40 trillion of infrastructure investments in the next 15 years, mainly in roads, ports, airports, schools, hospitals, and energy-related businesses. Due to the sheer population size and economic growth in India, there is huge pressure on the roads network. We have been able to develop relationships with certain states in the country and finally signed an MoU with the government in which we will help fund the USD7 billion Nagpur-Mumbai Expressway project. We are not so much looking at technology or construction projects because there are plenty of Indian companies that can provide services in these fields. What is lacking today in India is the funding that is required for huge infrastructure projects and the interest to be exposed to the Indian market. It requires people who are familiar with the market and have been dealing with the Indian market for a long period of time.

AAZ I have an appetite for Central and Southeast Asia because of the proximity and similarity that these regions carry to what we were a couple of decades ago. They are opening up: their political structures are becoming more transparent and stable, and they are building solid infrastructure. Our ventures in these regions will be opportunistic co-investments with capable investors and asset managers who are regionally focused. We continuously talk to interested operators and investors until we match the right idea, time, partner, and financing that goes with it so that we can move forward. The US, Europe, and the UK also have a place in our international strategy, but mainly for yielding assets.