FAMILY BUSINESS

Lebanon 2017 | ECONOMY | B2B

Despite the trying circumstances in the Levant and Iraqi Kurdistan, the Malia Group is aggressively and prudently moving forward with groundbreaking projects.

Jacques Jean Sarraf
JACQUES JEAN SARRAF
Chairman
Malia Group
Joanne Sarraf Chehab
JOANNE SARRAF CHEHAB
CEO
Malia Group

How would you evaluate the past year's operations and Malia Group's contribution to the development of the country?

JACQUES JEAN SARRAF Our contribution over the past year, across our 27 legal entities active in six sectors and seven markets, has been positive, despite the challenges the region continues to face. At Malia Group, we take a very long-term view, so we are on course to completing our projects leading up to 2020. Over the last year, we've brought together our Lebanon-based operations under one roof, Malia Tower, which is adjoined to the Malia Head Office, which further adheres to our objective of increased consolidation. On a managerial level, we appointed a new CEO, CTO, and COO for the group as well as appointing a CEO for Malia Invest Holding, the company that manages and supervises our operations in Iraq. Similarly, and in line with corporate governance, we've recently appointed four advisors to the Board of Directors, each an expert in their respective fields. Although corporate governance is nascent in this country, we have already embarked on it.

JOANNE SARRAF CHEHAB During the past year, we made great strides in corporate governance, which consisted of appointing a new CEO, CTO, and COO as well as independent members to the Board of Directors and a corporate secretary. These changes to our structure were done to ensure the sustainability of our group for generations to come and are essential when a group is as diversified as ours, with 27 companies operating in six sectors across seven markets. Last year was also marked by the recruitment of new talent to ensure the continuation of all our projects and investments, as well as the launch of new products in the markets where we operate.

What markets are you focusing right now?

JJS Our plans within the pharmaceutical industry include the expansion of our current facilities in Lebanon. We will also be launching Pharmaline Saudia, a joint venture with the Al Rashid Group in King Abdallah Economic City. Construction of the industrial plant has begun and should be completed by early 2019. We will also have plans to add to our industrial footprint with projects in Russia. As with all the countries in which we have operations, we remain very active in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. We are among the leading distribution companies in the territory and have found ways around the security challenges in order to safely and soundly deliver our goods. The next three years will also be eventful for the group in Iraq. For 2018, we plan to open Magma Square Sulaimani, a 20,000-sqm project housing F&B, retail, and entertainment outlets, facing the American University of Sulaimani. In the case of Kurdistan, we are confident of its security, which is one of the reasons we continue to invest there. Finally, we will be beginning execution of our—and possibly the country's—most ambitious hospitality project in Enfeh, North Lebanon. While the project has been ready to go for a while now, we were waiting for the election of a new president to ensure that Lebanon is on the right track. While we cannot disclose much of what the project entails, it will be monumental, enveloping 81ha of land and 450m of shoreline, with a projected investment cost of USD1 billion.

JSC Our main priority will always be the Levant market. Our operations are deeply rooted in Lebanon and Iraq. In 2009, we established Syrmadi, our legal entity in Syria, and we were active in FMCG distribution, fashion, and technology. We are still waiting to fully invest in this market and are looking forward to picking up where we left off. However, we continue to supply the market and export our goods there. Our investments in Iraq are ongoing, and we recently opened the Erbil Arjaan, our second hospitality project in the city, which complements our initial investment in the sector, the Erbil Rotana Hotel. Erbil Arjaan encompasses 168 fully furnished apartments, F&B outlets, and conference facilities, as well as other amenities. While there was a lull for a few months, business is picking up in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, prompting us to continue investing in and developing new projects. It is important to note that while circumstances may have compelled us to downsize, we are one of the few companies operating in Iraq that decided to meet this challenge head-on, thus remaining intact structurally and in terms of employee headcount.