TBY talks to Dean Cunningham, CEO of Kunooz Holding, on the company's investments, annual output, and investing in Oman.

Dean Cunningham
Dean Cunningham is a mining engineer who has actively worked in private equity and as a corporate financier over the past 26 years. Previously, he served as the Managing Director of Auroch Minerals NL, an ASX an exploration Company in Mozambique. He held the position of Executive Director, Corporate Finance for Basil Read and simultaneously held the position of CEO of TWP Investments, the investment arm of TWP Holdings, investing in Africa. He holds a degree in marketing and branding in global markets certificate from the Gordon Institute of Business Science and has a diploma for evaluating rough and polished diamonds.

What are the main activities of Kunooz Holding's various subsidiaries?

We have several subsidiaries in Muscat; we have a business that supplies aggregate and sand to the construction and road industries and a marble quarry with a polishing facility where we produce polished slabs, tiles, steps, and raises for both the local and international market. In Salalah, we mine and export gypsum and have a ready-mix business that produces concrete products and paving blocks and sells aggregates and sand to third parties. Supporting these two business and our Muscat operations is our logistics business, which undertakes all transportation and logistics internally and for third parties. Our business is roughly 75% export orientated and 25% local.

What are the holding's production capabilities?

For marble, we produce and sell about 42,000sqm of polished and cut product per month. We produce about 1.2 million tons of aggregates and sand on an annual basis. In the ready-mix business, we produce roughly 250,000 cubic meters of concrete on an annual basis plus blocks, curbstones, and aggregate and sand. We produce about 2.4 million tons and 4.2 million tons of gypsum and limestone, respectively, on an annual basis. At Carmeuse Majan we have one kiln commissioned producing about 150,000 tons of lime per year.

How has your transport network expanded beyond serving your own subsidiaries?

We have taken the next step in this regard and brought on a logistics graduate to turn our captive transport business into a logistics and warehousing hub business. We now provide transport to all of our subsidiaries and for our clients between Salalah and Muscat in both directions. We are considering a warehousing facility in Muscat to centralize our activity. We are looking at this on a regional basis, but our initial focus is on Oman.

What are some principal impediments to growth in the mining sector in terms of attracting investment or bureaucratic issues?

The government has been historically slow in granting licenses and fixing certain problems; however, a new CEO has been appointed to run the Public Authority of Mining and is in the process of addressing all of these issues. Current and future mining operations and potential investors require certainty in sustaining and developing new and existing mining operations. It should be noted that investors look at the global opportunities and are not just looking at Oman. Ease of access, legal tenure, and stable investment environments with low risk (relative to the mining sector) will be their focus and will attract investment. Any volatility in these key areas will see investors looking at alternative investment opportunities

Kunooz Holding plans to hold an IPO in the near future. What is the current strategy behind your IPO?

The government has encouraged family businesses to hold IPOs in Oman. The market is relatively small and this gives the public the opportunity to invest in high growth areas. It is a distribution of mineral wealth into the local economy. We need to continue to expand our assets and take advantage of the expansions and contractions in the markets of India on an annual basis. We are currently in discussions with a sovereign wealth fund to take a portion of our equity pre-IPO. The IPO date is going to be dependent on the market and perception of the market in the next couple of years. I think we will have the IPO at some point in 2017.

What is your vision for the next 12 months for Kunooz Holding?

We are still in the process of converting a family business into a professional organization, so for us the focus will be internally on setting goals and achieving our budgets. We will be focusing on our markets and our customers, creating better long-term relationships, and working to make our assets sweat. Attracting talent into our businesses to make us globally competitive. Our aspirations are not just local, but global.