The Business Year

Derek Nicholson Director of Strategy & Planning, Alpha Dhabi Holding

UAE - Economy

Derek Nicholson

Director of Strategy & Planning, Alpha Dhabi Holding

Bio

Derek Nicholson is the Director of Strategy & Planning at Alpha Dhabi Holding and leads the group’s research to identify diversification and growth opportunities into new sectors and countries. With over 27 years of experience, including 11 in the Middle East, he has operated in many business sectors including investment banking, oil and gas, real estate and healthcare. During his career, he has led multiple M&As and investment transactions across all stages of the business cycle. He previously held roles at Barclays and Standard Life Investments as well as a large private conglomerate in the UAE.

Alpha Dhabi Holding has put in place an ambitious investment strategy to focus on innovation and growth.
Alpha Dhabi Holding has put in place an ambitious investment strategy to focus on innovation and growth.

Where does Alpha Dhabi Holding stand today, and what is its strategy and investment approach?

The company was created in 2021 and is aligned with the diversification of Abu Dhabi. We are a conglomerate and investment holding company spread across multiple sectors. Industry is among our key verticals, a core company being the National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC), which also includes the National Petroleum Construction Company. We are also active in the healthcare sector with Pure Health. Then, we have a construction vertical, Trojan, which is at the heart of developing and completing the expansion of Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. We are present in hospitality, where we own several hotel assets, and we have an investment division where we invest across multiple companies and groups in Abu Dhabi and beyond where opportunities present themselves. We are highly focused on innovation and disruption to accelerate the growth of our business, and capital markets will play a key role in our growth. We have invested in IPOs that have taken place this year in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We were a cornerstone investor in both the IPO of Borouge in the petrochemical sector and DEWA in the utilities sector. We continue to support the capital markets as part of our investment strategy.

How do you determine which industries to invest in?

We aim to continue to grow the verticals that we are currently in. Our ambition is to grow in the UAE and expand across the MENA region and beyond. We are looking at acquisitions, and a number of our subsidiaries have their own investment teams driving that agenda. At the holding company level, we support that. If we see opportunities, we bring them to the attention of the subsidiaries. We also want to expand beyond the core verticals we are in; if we see opportunities that add value and deliver shareholder returns, we will take them through our investment process. If they meet the criteria, we will look to invest in them and grow them in terms of creating champions within their existing industries. We see many opportunities, but the bar is high in terms of where we want to invest, because we are a listed company and therefore must justify our decisions to the shareholders. We are growth oriented, and innovation and disruption are at the heart of where we choose to invest.

How you are aligned with the national agenda when it comes to sustainability and the energy transition?

We are aligned with the targets and strategy of the government, which is poised to spend over USD160 billion to achieve them. We can only conclude that there will be a large addressable market for us, with sustainability at the heart it all. As a group we have been developing our strategy and have taken the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and looked beyond it as well to the UN’s SDGs, which are crucial for the sectors we operate in. For one, we will invest in solar and wind technology in the energy transition space. We are holding discussions with partners and technology providers to assess potential entry points. One initiative that we are applying this year is to plant a tree for every employee within a construction division, which amounts to 23,000 trees.

What is your sustainable growth strategy?

We are diversifying growth. Being listed on the stock market, our business model is transparent. We are focused on high-growth, profitable companies, and sustainability has to be part of our long-term growth trajectory. We therefore have a long-term view of investments and acquisitions. Indeed, we have already met the SDGs across our entire group. The long-term goals of governments in terms of net zero mean there will be significantly more related investment, and in our sectors of operation we foresee USD3 trillion of additional investment on a global basis above what is already in place. As a group, we have global investments and intend for our reach to stretch beyond the immediate
region.

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