Arabtec CFO says Dubai is easy target for media

Ziad Makhzoumi says 'political issues' influence recent Western media attacks.
Arabtec CFO says Dubai is easy target for media
By Joanne Bladd
Mon 07 Dec 2009 04:15 PM

The media coverage of Dubai’s debt troubles has been partly politically motivated, a senior executive in the UAE’s largest construction firm said on Monday.

Ziad Makhzoumi, chief financial officer of Arabtec Construction, said Western media outlets had used the debt crisis as an excuse to divert attention from their own ailing economies.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Arabian Business conference, he said: “Dubai is a very obvious target, it has been successful and in the media. I think it [the coverage] is partly possibly a political issue to divert public opinion on what’s happening in their own countries. The UK is in very bad shape, other European countries are in worse.”

What has been lost in the melee is the number of profitable, state-backed assets Dubai has retained, Makzoumi said.

“Many of the entities in Dubai are cash-positive, a lot are profitable. Dubai Duty Free, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Ports and so on – these are entities that are still generating cash. It might be a longer cycle, but that’s the nature of the world,” he said.

Makzoumi conceded that news of the Dubai World debt restructuring could have been handled “more professionally” but said the business world has a short memory.

“The world has moved on. We don’t hear about [the restructuring] any more in the international press. We don’t see unreasonable, in my opinion, distorting pictures of Dubai drowning or burning, which I thought was really in bad taste.”

Arabtec Holding

’s share price fell 17 percent in the trading days immediately following the news of Dubai World’s debt restructuring.

Dubai-based Arabtec Construction is the UAE’s largest construction firm by market value, employing some 70,000 staff. Despite the economic downturn, the conglomerate completed projects worth some AED10bn last year and, according to Makzoumi, retains an AED9bn contract backlog in Dubai.

The company is increasingly diversifying away from its dependence on projects in Dubai and the UAE, where the construction industry is suffering from a collapse in real estate prices.

Instead, the firm is seeking business in new markets including Bahrain, Libya and Algeria, and recently announced it would establish subsidiaries in Lebanon and Egypt.

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