What recent economic and market trends have you noticed in Dubai, and how have these changes influenced the way Amanat Holding has been investing?
We continue to see opportunity in our chosen investment sectors, healthcare and education, which are set to benefit from sustained growth across the Middle East. 2019 was characterized by continued government investment in core defensive sectors as well as rising demand for specialized healthcare and first-rate education. We expect to see these trends continue into 2020. In education, the government has put a knowledge-based economy at the heart of its vision; this is supported by positive socioeconomic dynamics, such as a growing population and improving affluence, which both drive enrolments. In healthcare, we see a growing demand for specialist healthcare to support the rising incidence of chronic lifestyle diseases including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Government spending on health care in the GCC is expected to rise to USD30.5 billion by 2021 to support these patients. Our vision is to deliver value to our shareholders while helping to improve the quality of healthcare and education across the region in line with government ambitions.
What are the biggest challenges investors are facing in the Dubai market?
Volatility in oil prices since mid-2014 and its ensuing effect on the economy has impacted Dubai's main bourse index and liquidity in the UAE's stock markets, which are still seeing much lower traded volumes. Additionally, rising interest rates in the UAE have also affected investor costs when it comes to accessing funds. That being said, the government is addressing these challenges through multiple initiatives, including the latest approval for the largest federal budget in the country's history of AED66.4 billion for the fiscal year of 2020, an increase of 10.1% from 2019's AED60.3 billion budget. In addition, 2020 is going to be an exciting year as Dubai continues on its journey to Expo. The event will stimulate the development of innovative businesses in the UAE and enhance the country's international reputation as the preferred location to do business. Therefore, whilst there are challenges, there are a number of interesting opportunities from a macro-level.
Amanat Holding specializes in investments around health and education. Why did you select these specific sectors, and how are these sectors evolving in Dubai?
We focus on core defensive sectors that are set to benefit from sustained growth across the Middle East. Our distinct investment platforms are designed to build long-term value for shareholders. We do this by providing access to healthcare and education investments in MENA that are set to benefit from long-term growth catalysts. On a practical level, our team benefits from a wealth of expertise in our chosen sectors of healthcare and education. We aim to leverage these strengths to empower our portfolio companies to create long-term sustainable returns and a lasting legacy. The challenge for both the healthcare and education sectors is to continually enhance and adapt their offerings in an ever-more demanding environment, underpinned by technological advances and growing demographic pressures. This challenge is an opportunity to add significant value and support continual improvement. Amanat has the potential to become a game changer in healthcare and education, not only in the UAE but at an international level as well.
What are your main goals and objectives for 2020?
Amanat's strategy is to invest in attractive healthcare and education opportunities across MENA and in other regions as well. To date, our portfolio has primarily been focused on the top two regional economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We recently expanded our geographic footprint to Bahrain, where we acquired a leading healthcare asset. In 2020, we have plans to expand our footprint to take advantage of opportunities, both close to home in the UAE and beyond the Gulf. Looking ahead, Amanat will continue to invest in businesses that are distinctive, differentiated, and competitively sustainable, where we can build long-term value.