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Some investors want new Abraaj review

Some investors in funds managed by Dubai-based Abraaj want to block the sale of assets to Colony Capital pending a review of Abraaj’s handling of funds, according to a report seen by Reuters, potentially delaying a deal key to the survival of the investment management business.

US-based Colony offered last month to buy the fund management unit that runs Abraaj’s Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Turkey funds after months of turmoil at Abraaj triggered by a dispute with investors over the use of their money in a $1 billion healthcare fund.

Abraaj denies any wrongdoing, but the row has weighed heavily on the Middle East and Africa’s largest private equity firm, which filed for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands last month.

A review of Abraaj’s handling of investor money is likely to delay the Colony transaction, according to a report by Abraaj Holdings’ provisional liquidators, PwC.

The sale of some or all of Abraaj’s fund management business, Abraaj Investment Management (AIML), is seen as critical to the business avoiding financial collapse.

However, the PwC report also said other potential bidders had expressed interest in AIML assets, and at least two of them were viable alternative deals. One of those suitors is Cerberus Capital Management, sources familiar with the matter said. PwC and Abraaj said they could not provide any public comment on the report. Colony declined to comment. Cerberus did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fee cuts seen to spur Abu Dhabi tourism boom

Driven by a surge in visitors, particularly from China India, Europe and the US, the number of hotel guests staying in Abu Dhabi rose by 4.9 per cent during the first five months of 2018 compared to the same period last year.

Statistics from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) show that the emirate’s 162 hotels, resorts and hotel apartments offering 31,236 rooms welcomed 2,073,586 guests during January to May.

Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, said the steady growth proves the capital’s ability to realise its strategic goals of positioning the emirate as a leading global destination, through forward-looking marketing and promotional campaigns that seek to sustain growth.

“We continue to promote awareness of Abu Dhabi’s tourism and leisure attractions and authentic cultural heritage, as well as its highly-developed business and convention infrastructure,” said Ghobash.

He said Abu Dhabi’s tourism and hospitality sector is booming following a decision to cut tourism and municipal fees, implementing a reduction from six per cent to 3.5 per cent on tourism fees; a drop from four per cent to two per cent for municipality fees; and lowering the municipal fee for each hotel room from Dh15 to Dh10. This amendment, which became effective on July 1, is expected to encourage investors to build tourist and cultural attractions, and organise events, elevating the emirate’s status as a leading tourist destination, DCT Abu Dhabi said.

“This decision encourages investments across Abu Dhabi’s tourism and hospitality sector and enhances its competitiveness by bettering the economic value we offer our visitors for our quality services and attractions,” Ghobash added.

The new move will also help Abu Dhabi attract more visitors and increase occupancy rates, revenues and the average length of stay, and thus increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP and reach economic diversification targets. “We are dedicated to conveying a clear message to visitors in our target markets, inviting them to explore Abu Dhabi and enjoy the exceptional recreational, cultural and family experiences it offer,” said Ghobash.

Penalty of dh20k per point below Emiratisation target

Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), a regional leader in banking and finance education and training, on Thursday hosted a workshop to review progress achieved since the introduction of the target points system across UAE banks. The move aligns with the objective of the UAE Vision 2021 to increase the number of UAE nationals in the private sector.

Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli, UAEMinister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, led the meeting that drew the participation of Shahab Essa Al Zaabi, Head of Licensing at the Central Bank of the UAE and Board Member of EIBFS. More than 120 HR heads of banks – critical stakeholders in the implementation process – were also present.

In his keynote address, Al Hamli said: “Banking and insurance are important strategic sectors that have the ability to provide suitable jobs for UAE nationals and increase their competitiveness, and thus actively contribute to achieving the Emiratisation targets outlined in the UAE Vision 2021.” He stressed the readiness of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation to provide support to institutions and companies working in these sectors to enable them to achieve the required Emiratisation rates according to the points system.

 

Emirates opens lounge in Cairo

Emirates unveiled its 42nd dedicated lounge across its global network at Cairo International Airport (CAI) on Thursday. The lounge is now open to Emirates First Class and Business Class customers as well as Platinum and Gold members of Skywards, the airline’s loyalty programme.

Reflecting the airline’s ongoing commitment to Egypt, the Emirates Lounge in Cairo represents a $3.6 million investment to provide premium customers with a seamless and enjoyable journey. Catering to three daily flights, the lounge offers customers even greater levels of comfort, hospitality and convenience as they start their Emirates experience in Cairo. Located at Departure Terminal 2, Level 2, above the secondary security check & Duty Free area, Emirates’ customers can look forward to relaxing, unwinding and enjoying award-winning service and cuisine.

The lounge was formally opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Eng. Ahmed Youssef, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board; Mohammed H Mattar, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president – Emirates Airport Services; and Thani Al Ansari, country manager, Egypt, Emirates.

Flair in the air: A380 has changed the way we fly

Ask any traveller about their favourite aircraft to fly on, and chances are that they will select an Airbus A380, experts say.

The experience of flying on the largest passenger plane in the world has allowed the Airbus A380 to secure a loyal following of travellers, who prefer to fly on the aircraft due to its wide range of features such as quiet interiors, anti-turbulence systems and soft-mood lighting. Passengers travelling in business and first class also prefer the aircraft due to it boasting several unique features such as onboard showers, meeting lounge, private suites, and special menus.

The iconic double-decker made its first flight on April 27, 2005 and entered into commercial service on October 25, 2007 with Singapore Airlines. Emirates soon followed, taking delivery of its first A380 in July 2008, and soon becoming the biggest customer for the aircraft’s manufacturer.

Like many of Airbus’ other projects, the various parts of the A380 aircraft are made in different locations across Europe, before being sent for final assembly in a purpose-built facility at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southern France. Today, Emirates has the largest fleet of A380s, with 104 aircraft in service and 58 new A380 aircraft pending delivery.

“Emirates’ position as the biggest customer and operator of the A380 means that they’ll continue to reap economies of scale across its network,” Saj Ahmad, an analyst at London’s StrategicAero Research, told.

“There is no question that passengers enjoy the onboard experience of the A380, given that the airline has catered for all cabin classes; whether that be the privacy of first class, the lounge at business class, or the thousands of hours of entertainment for economy passengers. And with more A380s yet to be inducted, it stands to reason that Emirates will exploit the cabin features of the A380 across its network and pull in more customers,” he explained.

According to Airbus, 240 airports around the world can accommodate the A380, which has carried almost 250 million passengers since its entry into service. The A380 fleet makes over 300 flights per day, and an A380 is scheduled to take off or land at an airport every two minutes on average. In addition, more than 120 A380 routes are operated by 13 airlines across 60 destinations, with more routes being announced every year.

Noon seeks opportunities in overseas, local markets

Digital marketplace, noon, is eager to explore opportunities for growth both in the Middle East and in various overseas territories.

On Thursday, the company announced the launch of two entities in China, one on the mainland and the other in Hong Kong, kick starting noon’s Asia operations. Noon aims to establish a trusted network of high-quality Chinese brand owners with unique offerings, to bring the best range of products to customers in the Middle East.

“China’s booming e-commerce market has one of the most active marketplaces in the world,” said Mohamed Alabbar, founder of noon. “We’re also looking to partner with top brand owners and marketplace platforms to help us curate a wider and more diverse assortment of products for our customers in the Middle East. As always, customer experience is at the core of all that we do.”

A dedicated noon team, with support from Chinese counterparts, has been working on the ground to meet directly with local brand owners and cultivate valuable business relationships, showcasing noon’s attentive and unique approach to digital commerce. To further grow local partnerships, noon will also be soon establishing a permanent office space in China. Furthermore, noon is expanding its logistics capabilities in China and the region to ensure smooth and fast delivery of Chinese brands to Middle East customers.

Alabbar also offered his thoughts on an expansion into other territories, saying: “Moving forward, we have to look at these other Middle Eastern markets. I think we should not be very shy even to look a little bit East. We should really look at Pakistan and countries like that, because they’ve got 180, 190 population out there. And I think if you were to go to North Africa, the same thing, the base is quite good in that the area as well.”

Asked about the company’s plans for the GCC, Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon, noted that customers in the UAE and GCC can expect the reliability of shopping locally with a catalogue that continues to expand rapidly. “Customers in the region can expect more choice with a wider catalogue of products available to them and a simplified shopping experience because we will fulfill the order from start to finish.”

UAE exchange rebrands Africa operations as Unimoni

UAE Exchange, a leading global money transfer, foreign exchange and payment solutions brand, announced the rebranding of its Africa operations as Unimoni. The announcement was made by Promoth Manghat, Executive Director of Finablr and Group CEO, at an event held in Nairobi, Kenya, in the presence of dignitaries, partners and other guests.

Short for ‘Universal Money’, the new brand “Unimoni” reflects the company’s aspirations to strengthen its global presence and provide a broader spectrum of innovative financial services to its customers. Following the announcement, Unimoni will be launched across Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, subject to regulatory approvals. As part of its Africa growth strategy, Unimoni plans to be present in 14 African markets by the year 2020, and has developed a healthy pipeline of digital payment solutions designed to cater to the specific needs of the African customers.

Promoth Manghat, Executive Director of Finablr, said: “Home to some of the fastest growing economies globally, Africa holds tremendous potential and is a critical component of our growth strategy as a group. We will continue to invest in enhancing the breadth of our reach and depth of our operations in the African continent. As a group, we have earmarked $100 million in investments to support our growth and expansion efforts in Africa over the next decade. As Unimoni, we will facilitate seamless and connected experiences for our customers and pave the way towards sustainable development and inclusive growth of the various African markets.”

Through its category-leading brands such as Unimoni, UAE Exchange, Travelex and Xpress Money, the Finablr network extends across 45 African markets. With 29 branches in Africa offering affordable money transfer and foreign exchange services, Unimoni plans to significantly increase its retail footprint over the coming years. Additionally, the brand is also making aggressive investments in customer-focused technology innovations as well as collaborating with ecosystem partners to provide an enhanced service proposition to its customer base.

Speaking about the future expansion plans for its Africa operations, Allen Semboze, Regional Head Africa, Unimoni, said: “The next few years are going to be very eventful for us at Unimoni, as we set out to achieve our ambitious growth strategy. We are in advanced discussions with various ecosystem partners including Mobile Network Operators and aggregators to develop new money transfer solutions. These services will be available in four of our seven markets in Africa by the second half of 2018. We are also working on developing our digital capabilities including an online remittance platform, a white-label solution for our corporate customers and an online forex solution. While we are adopting a phased approach towards our growth in Africa, all these offerings will be live by 2020 across all our African markets.”

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