Dubai jeweller Damas eyes international expansion

Company CEO eyes more than 30 new store openings before early Q2 next year
By Beatrice Thomas
Mon 25 Nov 2013 01:41 PM

Dubai jeweller Damas International has revealed plans to expand into key international markets, including Asia, the US and parts of Europe, as it pursues a new vision following an overhaul of its operations.

The company, which was rocked by a 2009 scandal involving unauthorised transactions by its founders, has been in a restructuring phase for the past two years.

Anan Fakhreddin, CEO of Damas, said as part of its expansion the company was opening 34 new stores before the end of Q1, early Q2 2014, of which 28 will be in the UAE and six will be in Saudi Arabia.

The company currently had 297 shops across the GCC and Fakhreddin said it was “continually looking for good locations within the UAE”.

It was also remodelling its outlets by moving towards a two-store format retail strategy, with high-end shops to be branded under the Damas name, while mid-segment branding will be labeled Damas Collections.

Fakhreddin said the company, which is majority owned by Qatari conglomerate Mannai Corp, was eyeing new international markets.

“What we have in mind is something that will take us into the core fashion centres in the world and the core jewellery markets in the world,” he told Arabian Business.

He said China, the US, India and the key European markets of Italy and France were the biggest players.

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“Obviously all these markets are being considered by Damas now,” he said. “We believe that we have the credentials to become a global player. Consumer research confirms that, business feasibility analysis confirms that.”

Fakhreddin said Damas was working on business cases ahead of further announcements due in early 2014.

However, he flagged that acquisitions of existing brand names could be one way of “securing that presence and that market share”. The other was to open its flagship stores on a stand-alone basis.

In 2009 it emerged the company’s founding brothers - Tawfique Abdullah, Tawhid Abdullah and Tamjid Abdullah - chairman, managing director and deputy managing director respectively - had made unauthorised withdrawals worth AED614m ($167.17m).

In 2011, restructuring worth $872m was signed with its 25 lenders, as well as a cascade agreement whereby the three would repay the owed amount over an agreed period through asset sales. Last year Damas delisted from the Dubai stock exchange.

Fakhreddin said Damas had fully repaid some lenders, and renegotiated finance under working capital arrangements with others.

He said the expansion plans would be funded from “existing resources” after two phenomenal years in sales.

Fakhreddin said the company had injected fresh international talent into its executive. He confirmed the Abdullah brothers had no management role with the company or shares in Damas International, but had “some stake” at “a different level”.

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