NBF agrees Al Hokair loan

US$55m finance to develop health chain.
NBF agrees Al Hokair loan
By Daniel Stanton
Tue 04 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) has been appointed as mandated lead arranger (MLA) on a US$55m syndicated loan that will be used to develop the Fitness First health club brand in the GCC and wider Middle East.

Awwal Fitness Ltd. (AFL), a Jebel Ali Free Zone Company, part of the Al Hokair Group of Saudi Arabia, signed the agreement with NBF, which acted as MLA and bookrunner.

Asad Ahmed, general manager of NBF, said: "We are extremely happy to have been appointed as the mandated lead arranger for this facility and to have successfully closed this syndication with Al Hokair Group.

"This closure reiterates the bank's focus on growing our product capabilities to meet all aspects of our clients' needs. We are particularly pleased that we have been able to include an Islamic tranche under a murabaha financing structure within this facility."

A total of seven banks participated, with Arab African International Bank, Dubai Bank and First Gulf Bank joining as lead arrangers while HSBC, Mashreq and The Arab Investment Company joined as co-arrangers in the transaction.

P.B. Das, head of corporate and institutions at NBF, said: "The syndication attracted strong interest from the banks and will provide Awwal Fitness with the financial support required to scale up operations. As corporate finance requirements for companies in the region grow, we expect strong growth in the syndicated loan market and there will be other structures which we will shortly bring to the market."

Tariq Khan, finance director for the Al Hokair Group, remarked: "We are thankful to our banking partners for having the faith in the business that we have, and for their support of the current syndication.

"We consider ourselves as the pioneers in bringing the ‘modern fitness club' concept to the region and are very excited about the business prospects, given the success of the first three clubs in Dubai."

The Al Hokair Group has an exclusive franchise agreement to promote Fitness First, the world's largest health club operator, and is one of the top ten commercial groups in Saudi Arabia. The group was established in 1991 in Saudi Arabia and has 720 fashion retail stores across the region representing over 50 international brands.

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