HOLDING ON

Sharjah 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Faisal Holding in Sharjah is looking to expand its decades-old business from hospitality into the healthcare and education sectors.

Brett Schafer
BIOGRAPHY
Brett Schafer brings over 35 years of international and regional expertise in enterprise leadership and asset optimization to his role as CEO of Faisal Holding. Prior to this role, Schafer served as the CEO of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Properties. Schafer is responsible for providing strategic leadership and management of the diverse portfolio of companies, investments, real estate holdings, and developments under the Faisal Holding group while spearheading corporate strategy for business development and growth. Previously, and also in Dubai, Schafer was the Senior Managing Director of Al Futtaim Group Real Estate.

What have been your main achievements been since the company's establishment, and how has it evolved?

The original companies now forming the Faisal Holding group were founded by Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan Al Qassimi in the 1970s. Sheikh Faisal is the pioneer of numerous significant enterprises in the UAE. Approximately five years ago, Sheikh Faisal and his key board members conducted exhaustive strategic studies into this group together with top global business advisors producing recommendations on the sectors of business we should focus on and how we should structure our organization to take it to the next level. This has been the basis of our clear long-term strategy, which continues to be successfully implemented in guiding our business strategy and planning, along with the company operating as a corporate entity with all the corporate governance according to international standards.

What are your thoughts on the economic trends emerging in Sharjah?

As far as trends are concerned, it is all about efficiency and productivity, making the maximum use of one's assets, and ensuring they have the right positioning in the marketplace, no matter what business they are in. To remain competitive, one needs that edge. There are trends of specialization; businesses now have more focus because they cannot be everything to everyone. It is thus crucial to remain competitive and cost effective.

Which sector currently exhibits the most growth?

Our group's strategy, decided five years ago and which I have been implementing, is to remain focused on some of the sectors we were already successful in, one of which is hospitality. We own hotels in the UAE and the region, seeing continuing growth in tourism and thus hospitality. Tourism is huge globally and is the fastest-growing industry in the world. We have great confidence in the tourism potential in the region. The UAE has led the tourism situation here, and we will remain, and even expand our exposure, in hospitality. When we entered the healthcare sector, we also wanted to be extremely focused. We did not just want to build hospitals. Our research found there were enough hospitals in the marketplace and even an oversupply; however, that is not to say that there are no highly focused opportunities in this sector. One of these is the first national dental network in the UAE, which we are already rolling out with our multinational healthcare partners.

What are your main goals and priorities for the coming year?

The main goals are our expansion into the two new sectors of healthcare and education, where we actively have initiatives rolling out. On the hospitality side of our business, we continue to invest and develop. Our new ECOS-brand hotel, which we will open in Dubai South in 2020, will be the first of this unique special brand focusing on guest experience coupled with excellent value. We are opening it just before Expo 2020 right by Expo and Dubai World Central, which will give the hotel an initial boost to its operations and excellent brand exposure. Opportunities in resort hotels are also good, and we will be developing a significant resort hotel in Ras Al Khaimah, though we are positioning it in a unique way, as a low-rise environmentally friendly hotel at a beautiful natural beach with natural attractions that we will make all about the environment and experience. Our wholesale distribution business will also continue expanding in Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. We have also repositioned our marketing agency business, which services all the sectors we are invested in. Real estate forms a large part of our portfolio and we continue to invest, develop, and manage our extensive holdings across the UAE, plus optimize our land bank assets. We also continue to be invested and active with our associated companies in the construction and manufacturing sectors.