By Gavin Gibbon
Faisal Bin Juma Belhoul said the current economic turmoil is 'deja-vu' from time of financial crash
The founder and managing partner of UAE-based Ithmar Capital Partners is confident there are opportunities to be had in the market, despite the economic downturn prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and likened the current climate to the financial crash just over ten years ago.
Faisal bin Juma Belhoul said that eyebrows were raised a decade ago when he invested over AED500 million in Al Noor Hospitals - now Mediclinic International.
“Everybody thought we must have lost our heads, making big commitments in the market,” he told Arabian Business.
However, the investment paid off and more, with the Abu Dhabi-based hospital group going on to be listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2013.
Ithmar exited the company in stages, over that five year period, which was completed in 2015. The company said the return on the original investment was multiplied six times over.
Al Noor would go on to complete a merger with South Africa’s Mediclinic International in 2016.
Belhoul, who is also chairman of UAE start-up Okadoc, said: “We are seeing a lot of opportunities in the market. We’re seeing this almost as a 2009 deja-vu, when capital was very shy, businesses were distressed or at least short on capital and with growth prospects.
“Obviously coming off the end of the financial crisis, it just meant that committing capital to good businesses with good management teams, that have the right vision, was something that could be rewarding over a number of years.”
According to figures released by the Dubai Statistics Centre, Dubai’s economy declined by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2020, as the emirate battled the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This compares to a growth rate of 2.2 percent in 2019.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, projects a 4.9 percent decline in the global economy in 2020, in contrast to a growth of 2.9 percent in 2019.
Advanced and developing economies are expected to decline by eight percent and three percent in 2020 respectively, while in the Middle East and Central Asia they are expected to contract by 4.7 percent in 2020 compared to one percent in 2019.
However, Belhoul remained bullish and insisted there were opportunities in the region, and further afield, to take advantage of.
“It was a very interesting bucket of cold water (Covid-19) than has allowed us to reflect and pivot in the right direction,” he said.
“Our focus has always been the GCC fundamentally, with an opportunistic view beyond that. We keep an eye on international companies, especially if they have a regional angle, but primarily the focus is the GCC as it stands,” he added.