Dubai-based conglomerate KEF Holdings appoints new CEO

KEF Holdings, a multi-billion dollar Dubai-based conglomerate with strategic investments across various sectors, has named Richard Pattle as its new CEO and board member.

Pattle is will assume his new role in the summer, and will be responsible for the overall management of the business and its various subsidiaries, as well as head global strategic partnerships and investments.

At the moment, Pattle is Vice Chairman of Standard Chartered Private Bank, which he joined in 2014. He was previously Master of the Household for The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and before that served in the British Royal Air Force as a helicopter pilot and in a variety of operational and staff roles.

“I am very pleased that Richard is joining KEF Holdings as CEO and a member of the Board, as we build our businesses in India, the Middle East and beyond,” said KEF founder and chairman Faizal Kottikollon.

“He brings to the role a deep knowledge and understanding of family-owned enterprises, global perspectives, and has a proven track record in leadership which will further enhance the operation of our companies as we build a world class team and expand rapidly.”

Additionally, Kottikollon said that Pattle share’s KEF’s “passion for India, and for creating businesses that have a social impact.”

Pattle’s experience in India includes a year-long exchange posting with the Indian armed forces.

“Much of my initial focus will be directed to operations in India, a country I have grown exceptionally fond of over the last 25 years during my three previous careers,” Pattle said.

“I share Faizal and Shabana’s [Faizal’s wife and KEF vice chairperson] conviction that technology, infrastructure and healthcare are vital to India’s continued success, and I look forward to working with the team at KEF Holdings to help accelerate growth across the country and beyond.”

Abu Dhabi, Dubai growth forecast to remain steady at 3%

Growth in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will remain at a sustained level of 3 percent over the next several years if oil prices remain stable, according to Fisch Asset Management.

The growth, however, will remain modest when compared to the 4 percent per annum achieved before 2015.

A report by Independent Credit Review – a subsidiary of Fisch – confirmed Abu Dhabi’s quality rating as AA-, benefiting from comfortable reserves but with a forecast of slightly negative national budgets and rising debt over the next few years.

Dubai, for its part, was upgraded to BBB+, which Fisch said stems from a gradual reduction of total debt, including contingent obligations from state-owned companies from 141 percent in 2013 to 111 percent at the end of 201.

The report noted that VAT will help support the UAE’s fiscal situation in light of lower oil-related activities.

Among the concerns highlighted in the report are Abu Dhabi’s high dependence on oil production and high debt levels of state-owned enterprises and significant investments related to Expo in Dubai.

The report notes that the UAE’s debt position has been gradually defused since the 2008 crisis, primarily due to robust GDP growth over the last few years.

“The United Arab Emirates is seeing a new period of slow and steady economic growth, supported by twin boosters of oil-producing giant Abu Dhabi partnered with Dubai benefitting from many years of efforts towards diversification,” said Philipp Good, CEO and head of portfolio management at Fisch.

“The UAE should certainly prepare against risks, however – for example, Dubai’s tourism and construction industry is strongly dependent on geopolitical stability, and regional, European and international visitors, meaning it will be exposed to any escalation in diplomatic disputes within the GCC or the knock-on effects of Brexit,” he added.

Revealed: why UAE residents are losing confidence in their finances

Almost half of UAE residents are less confident about their financial health than they were 12 months ago, according to a new survey.

The quarterly Consumer Confidence Tracker from yallacompare, the Middle East comparison site, revealed that 42.9 percent of UAE residents are less confident about their financial health, with just 19.3 percent more confident than they were in Q1 2017.

Despite this, only 24.4 percent are more likely to leave the country as a result of their financial health over the last 12 months, and 42.2 percent are less likely to leave the country for the same reason.

This suggests that, while confidence may be falling, UAE expats remain more confident about their prospects in the UAE than in their home countries, the survey said.

The Q1 2018 tracker is based on a survey of 1,441 UAE residents.

“Our Consumer Confidence Tracker shows that, while consumer confidence may not be particularly high right now, UAE residents still see the country as a place of opportunity. What’s more, the tracker shows that, while UAE residents may worry about their prospects, most appear to be taking steps to improve their financial health,” said Jonathan Rawling, CFO of yallacompare.

“A series of indicators on the tracker show a general lack of confidence around job security, the ability to keep up with the cost of living, and the prospect of a salary raise. This means that UAE residents are now allocating their resources differently, based on their confidence levels.”

In terms of the indicators, 37.3 percent said they are worried they will be unable to get by as the cost of living rises, while 53.3 percent are slightly worried. Just 8 percent report to not be worried at all.

UAE consumers are also less confident about keeping their jobs compared to the previous quarter, with 26.9 percent of people worried about job security for the coming 12 months. Year-on-year, 38.3 percent of people feel less secure in their job than they did this time last year.

Slightly fewer people now expect a salary raise in 2018 than in the fourth quarter of 2017 – 60.7 percent compared to 62.3 percent while 15.9 percent expect a pay cut over the next 12 months.

The tracker did reveal, however, that the worst fears around the implementation of VAT have not been realised. Only 12 percent of people feel that the impact of VAT has been such that they’re now struggling to make ends meet. This compares to Q4 2017 – prior to the launch – when 44.6 percent of people were worried that the implementation of VAT. 

The survey also suggested that UAE residents are sending less money home than they were last year while nearly 60 percent said they are saving less than they were last year.

For the first quarter of 2018, 42.4 percent claimed to have less credit card debt than they did at the same time last year, and 46.8 percent of people have less loan debt than they did last year.

Elsewhere, of those who pay school fees, 81.6 percent of UAE residents said they have seen an increase in fees and 54.1 percent of parents said they would consider sending their child to a different school in order to save money on fees.

Abu Dhabi retail sector hit as consumers tighten belts

Abu Dhabi’s retail sector is feeling the pinch of weaker demand levels as consumers have become more prudent with their spending – both from rising cost of living and impacts of the launch of VAT at the start of 2018.

CBRE’s Abu Dhabi Market Overview report said that despite the overall weaker market sentiment, major malls continue to enjoy comparatively strong occupancy and rental levels during the first quarter of this year.

During Q1, prime rents for typical line shops (mall-based) ranged between AED2,500–3,200 per sq m per annum while similar units within off-island locations had rents between AED2,000–3,200 per sq m per annum.

CBRE said that although rental ranges remain wide, average rentals declined by around 8 percent year-on-year, with more severe declines for secondary and tertiary locations.

With retail inventory levels expanding, mall operators are now becoming more open to negotiating with tenants and have become more generous with incentives and contract terms, the report noted.

Analysis of the on-going development pipeline indicates that about 0.29 million sq m of new retail space is expected to be handed over in the Abu Dhabi market during 2018–2020.

Over the next three years, total retail development is expected to reach close to 1.9 million square metres, roughly 18 percent of the existing retail stock.

VAT said to have ‘little impact’ on Abu Dhabi office market in Q1

The launch of VAT in the UAE has had little effect on the commercial occupier market in Abu Dhabi, according to a new report.

Knight Frank’s Q1 2018 Abu Dhabi Commercial Market Review said that this is also likely to be the case going forward in the UAE capital’s office market.

The report said that although more than 195,000 square metres of stock is pencilled in to be delivered in Abu Dhabi, in reality around 70,000 sq m is likely to be brought to market with the remainder being delayed to 2019.

Taimur Khan, senior analyst, said: “The vast majority of this new supply is not considered to be prime therefore its impact on the prime market is likely to be limited.”

The report said prime office rents in Q1 registered at AED1,800 per sq m per annum on average, down 1.6 percent compared to the year-earlier period.

Citywide office space witnessed steeper declines in rents of up to 12.9 percent, the report added.

Knight Frank said Abu Dhabi’s GDP decreased by 2.7 percent in the year to Q3 2017. Despite the weaker performance in the oil sector, the non-oil sector has remained resilient.

It added that the short to medium term outlook for Abu Dhabi’s office market remains negative with further falls in rental rates expected over the coming year.

Kuwaiti airline launches new flights to Saudi holy city

Kuwait-based Jazeera Airways has announced the launch of new direct flights to the holy Saudi city of Madinah.

Jazeera Airways said its foray into the second largest Islamic pilgrimage destination comes as part of its mission to serve the increasing demands of pilgrims.

“We are pleased to be opening a route to Madinah to improve services for pilgrims. They are an important segment for us, from Kuwait and for travellers from other countries such as India,” said Rohit Ramachandran, CEO, Jazeera Airways.

Jazeera Airways said it will provide a frequency of three weekly flights while flights to Taif will be resumed during the month of Ramadan starting May 16 until June 6.

One of the most visited cities and sacred in the Islamic religion, Madinah holds religious buildings, monuments and museums dedicated to covering and conserving Islamic history.
It is home to spectacular mosques and key pilgrimage sites namely Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, or the Prophet’s Mosque, Quba Mosque and the Seven Mosques which comprises a complex of mosques. 

Flying to 23 destinations across the Middle East, Europe and India, Jazeera Airways operates a fleet of nine Airbus A320 aircraft.

For Pakistani dockworkers in Dubai, kushti is a way of life

Every Friday evening in Dubai’s bustling Deira district, a sandy lot is transformed into the ring of champions. It is kushti wrestling night and Kala Pehlwan is ready to fight.

As the sun sinks below towering palm trees, dozens of men — many in tunics, others in T-shirts — begin to form a perfect circle.

Most are Pakistani or Indian, from the cross-border region of Punjab, where kushti is a beloved pastime. They are also a pillar of the United Arab Emirates’ workforce.

Veteran wrestlers, now referees, pour water over the inner ring to minimise dust.

A peanut vendor drags a rickety cart around the circle, tending to the crowd — now three rows deep. 

“Clink, clink, clink,” ring out wooden cymbals with bells.

The wrestlers unabashedly strip down to their underwear, donning yellow, red, or even floral-patterned loincloths.

“Kala Pehlwan, son, come to the ring! Suhail, son, come to the ring,” cries out 50-year-old Mohammed Iqbal – a Dubai kushti fixture.

Glaring, the opponents swipe one another’s bodies with sand – a reciprocal move to counter sweat.

The day’s matches are quick – sometimes under a minute – and hard fought.

A foot is trapped between a rival’s legs, a fighter flips over his opponent’s shoulders to escape his grip. One pins his match down on his stomach and throws sand in his face before getting restrained by the referees.

Spectators dart into the ring to film fights. Others watch in rapture, breaking out in cheers at decisive moments in the match.

The winner is declared when a fighter manages to pin his opponent to the ground on his back.

If the fight starts going over 20 minutes, the referees declare a tie.

On this evening, Kala Pehlwan finds himself overpowered – and faced with a challenge.

“Find me a fighter that can beat me,” his opponent taunts.

Kala Pehlwan, 26, huddled with friends and came up with a plan. They would find a challenger — not from Dubai, but from their hometown of Muzaffargarh in the Punjab region of Pakistan.

Within days, they had gathered the money, throwing in 50-100 Dirhams (roughly $15-25, 12-20 euros) each to pay for a plane ticket.

“I can’t meet you tonight I’m going to the airport,” Kala Pehlwan tells AFP one Monday evening.

Two days later, AFP met Kala Pehlwan at his workplace, Dubai’s gleaming Waterfront Market.

Row upon row of ice-topped stalls are laden with fresh fish from Oman, Sri Lanka and beyond — a testament to the shipping hub that is Dubai.

The stalls bear the names of Emirati owners, but South Asians are the face of the market.

“We have connections from Pakistan at the fish market,” says Kala Pehlwan. This is where he learned about the kushti matches when he arrived in Dubai six years ago.

The brawny fighter enters the delivery area, crossing paths with his mentor, Mohammed Iqbal, who is pushing a cart of fish.

“When I enter the market everyone is excited. They recognise me and know my name. And if there is any problem, they come to help me because I’m famous,” Kala Pehlwan grins.

That evening, Mohammed Shahzad – the challenger from Muzaffargarh – tags along.

Dressed in a crisp, blue tunic, Shahzad, 22, says he didn’t hesitate when he received Kala Pehlwan’s call.

“The other fighter beat my friend and challenged him to find someone who can knock him out… so I came to Dubai,” he grinned.

Kala Pehlwan says kushti is a way of life back in Muzaffargarh.

“In our town, it’s a tradition to learn wrestling. Everybody grows up on kushti. They do not have bad habits like cigarettes or drugs. Everyone is trying to be fit for a fight.”

Kala Pehlwan – whose real name is Mohammed Arsalan – took his nom de guerre from a hometown legend who shares his fighting style.

He says a proper diet, coach and training are key to success. Eating right is his biggest challenge in an expensive metropolis.

Here, the fish market has some benefits. 

“Fish is my favourite dish. It is the healthiest food because in Dubai, most things are coming in frozen form but fish is fresh. Every other day I am eating a fish from the market. We are getting free fish from our employer at the end of the day,” Kala Pehlwan says, returning to stack crates.

For Kala Pehlwan and many of his friends, Dubai is a temporary stage in life — a place to save cash before returning home.

They work hard and sleep in shifts.

AFP obtained permission to film at the men’s residence but was unable to because it would have disrupted the group’s sleeping patterns.

“We all have our jobs here. Some are porters, some work in the fish market,” Iqbal says ahead of a Friday match.

But kushti, he adds, “is our tradition. It’s where we come to de-stress.”

Iqbal wrestled for more than two decades in Dubai before passing the torch to the next generation, whom he takes the time to train each evening before work.  

“It’s not hard to get a space for these fights because in Dubai they always want entertainment and encourage us.

“The (authorities) say arranging fights like this is better than fighting in anger where you live or at your workplace,” said Iqbal.

Kala Pehlwan says he can earn AED500-600 ($135-$165) on a good night – the money collected in a plastic bag by the referee and champion – but kushti is not about money.

“We can’t enjoy life, we can’t have a good time if we don’t have wrestling in Dubai,” he said. 

When Friday night comes around again, it’s the visiting challenger Shahzad who wins.

GCC needs to spend $89bn on extra power capacity by 2022

Middle Eastern and North African countries need to spend $260 billion over the next five years for electricity production to meet rising demand, a report said on Tuesday.

The region, which includes oil heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, must make the investments to add 117 gigawatts (GW) of power generation by 2022, Arab Petroleum Investment Corp. (APICORP) said.

The Dammam-based energy development bank said $152 billion is needed for electricity generation and the rest for transmission and distribution projects.

It estimated that power capacity in the Middle East and North Africa, currently standing at 321 GW, needs to expand by 6.4 percent on average annually by 2022 to meet growing demand.

The six nations belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – need to spend $89 billion to add 43 GW over the next five years, according to APICORP estimates.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead the way with expected investments worth $33 billion and $21 billion, respectively, it said.

Iran needs to add 25 GW of power to its current capacity of 77 GW with estimated investments of $50 billion, according to the report.

Iraq, another oil-rich country, is required to invest $39 billion to add 12 GW of electricity by 2022, it said.

Egypt, the most populous country in the region, is estimated to need $46 billion of investments to add 22 GW of power to raise its capacity to 60 GW in 2022.

APICORP said that countries in the region are increasingly resorting to clean energy sources like solar and nuclear to produce electricity.

Struggling Dubai retailer eyes first profits after restructuring

Marka, which has exclusive rights to manufacture and sell Real Madrid products in the Gulf region, said on Tuesday it expects to be operationally profitable for the first time in the first quarter of 2018.

The struggling retailer, which is embarking on an ongoing cost control program, has failed to turn a profit since being established in 2014.

But the company’s chairman, Khaled Jassim Bin Kalban, said in a statement published by the Dubai Financial Market that the restructuring programme has started to show “beneficial impact”.

He said the company expects to achieve operational profitability in Q1 against a loss of AED4.6 million in the previous quarter.

He said the results reflect progress made by the company over the past 12 months, meeting the changing demands of its customers.

He added: “Over the past 12 months, Marka has focused its efforts on streamlining its structure, exiting unprofitable businesses and making the company ready for growth.

“Today we are pleased to see the positive results this exercise has had, as achieving operational profitability is an important milestone. Marks is now ready to face the future with confidence.”

Last October, at its General Assembly meeting, shareholders of the company approved the “continuity of operations”.

In May, Marka announced a new CEO, Benoit Lamonerie, who replaced Nick Peel, who resigned last year after failing to turn a profit since Marka was established in 2014.

Peel had said that he would make Marka become profitable by the fourth quarter of 2015.

Aldar sells mega project plots for school, hypermarket, clinic

Aldar Properties has announced it has sold two plots of land in mega project Alghadeer for community services.

The contracts will see British curriculum Alghadeer International School and retail outlets including LuLu supermarket and a community clinic open in the community close to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border in 2021. 

Talal Al Dhiyebi, CEO, Aldar said: “The addition of Alghadeer International School, retail outlets, LuLu supermarket and clinic will increase the range of convenience-driven amenities and facilities for existing and future residents at Alghadeer, creating more complete neighbourhoods.

“Developing this community shows the momentum in the Alghadeer development and is in line with our strategy to deliver desirable destinations and provide residents with a truly enriched community living experience focused on comfort, accessibility and convenience.”

Alghadeer’s new masterplan comprises of 14,408 home including villas, townhouses, and maisonettes which will be complemented by office space, retail space, hospitality, education and community amenities.

The new Alghadeer masterplan incorporates Aldar’s existing community of the same name which boasts over 2,000 homes and is a thriving destination for many families.

The retail amenities will be spread over more than 30,000 square metres and will include a range of outlets as well as a community clinic. The LuLu supermarket, retail outlets and clinic will be operational in 2021.

Alghadeer International School, which is set to offer places for 1,500 students, is to be operational from September 2020.