UNREALIZED POTENTIAL

Oman 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdul Samad Al Maskari, CEO of Al Madina Investments, on its premier healthcare project, creating a better investment environment, and the key role of PPPs in Oman.

Abdul Samad Al Maskari
BIOGRAPHY
Abdul Samad Al Maskari joined Al Madina Investments in 1999 as finance manager, eventually becoming CEO in 2008. Over the years, he has played a vital role in developing Al Madina Investment as one of the leading investment companies in Oman. Al Maskari also has a vast experience in Islamic finance. He was involved in the first sukuk issued in Oman. He is also a chartered Islamic Finance Professional (CIFP) from Malaysia. He has certified Sukuk Professional (CSP) from Al Huda Center of Islamic Banking and Economic. He holds a bachelor of commerce from Ein Shams University, Egypt.

What kind of interest has Al Madina's USD200 million healthcare complex project received from investors?

We have received strong interest for participation at the equity level from institutions, high net-worth individuals, financial services, and family offices in Oman, the GCC region, as well as a global American healthcare firm. The large interest drawn is attributable to the professional planning undertaken in the pre-feasibility study, concept design, and architectural planning by Al Madina Investments. The project has also attracted considerable interest from local banks for participation in the debt level with attractive terms. The hospital is aimed to be the country's premier private medical facility providing multi-specialty services. Patients can receive the appropriate medical evaluation, diagnosis, advice, and treatment from top medical specialists with best-in-class facilities and excellent service quality. Currently, the public sector faces challenges in terms of long waiting lists and declining bed density ratio. In addition, the rising population and trends of life style diseases are expected to result in an increased demand for healthcare services in the future and pose an increased burden on public health services. We want to lift the quality standards for Omanis. We want to go to the first meeting of the shareholders with everything intact, as Al Madina has long been known for providing quality to its investors and the public.

How can the regulatory authorities in Oman bring about changes to create a better investment environment for local and foreign investors?

The laws have to change in the various government sectors and ministries. If someone were to come up with a real estate fund, for example, then real estate laws have to change, taxation has to change, and the capital market has to change. Sukuk law and takaful law recently came to Oman. There are many laws that have been changed. The government is aware, and it is looking at what is best and what is needed. We do not just want to open investment channels to anybody; we want to make sure that only serious investors come to Oman. We take our drive from His Majesty, who taught all Omanis that we have to be serious and add value to this land. Oman is a place where we have to add value, and that is our message to any potential investor. We need people that can add value to the country.

How do you see PPPs playing a role in the diversification efforts of the country moving forward?

As His Excellency Sunaidi remarked at the Oman Economic Forum, government companies are no longer getting the same level of support from the government; they have to work as companies and find their own way. The government will not make a major investment unless the private sector participates as well. The government will focus on infrastructure as normal, especially those projects in which the private sector can participate and add value, such as hospitals and schools. Our role as an investment company is to develop products and projects that allow other people to come in and participate through PPPs. We have companies in real estate, national mass housing, and hotels that are all participating in this regard. Everyone can play a role, and our role is to enhance the capital market here with projects and products and call other investors so that they can participate in the PPP. It is an interesting time coming up, and Oman still has a great deal of unrealized potential compared to other GCC countries.

What are your targets and expectations for Al Madina Investments over the next 12 months?

We have plans in the pipeline, but we still have our own challenges. We need to grow as a professional investment bank in Oman. We have been tagged as an Islamic investment bank and we are trying to come up with projects and ideas that can bring value to our shareholders and stakeholders.