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Sat 13 Dec 2014 10:35 AM

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Who were the stars of 2014?

Companies like Etisalat, Emaar Properties and flydubai stood head and shoulders above the rest, says Anil Bhoyrul

Who were the stars of 2014?

It’s that time of the year again when we look back at all those grand promises made by grand people during 2013 and see how many of them were kept. It’s probably the worst time possible to make a judgement given the recent collapse in oil prices, which has also resulted in the Dubai Financial Market slipping below the 4,000 mark.

But putting that aside, I think it is worth highlighting what I consider to be my three “star players” in the past 12 months. First off, telecoms giant Etisalat. It’s not a company that necessarily over excites investors, given the one-year share price return is only 4 percent. But given this is the biggest listed company in Dubai, slow and steady is actually a welcome thing. It is also worth noting the performance of the group since Ahmad Julfar took the helm in 2011. After a difficult period of restructuring, he has emerged as a true global leader, helping Etisalat become the 12th biggest telecoms firm on the planet. What impresses me most is the way Julfar has focused heavily on the group’s non-UAE revenues, which by 2015 could account for 50 percent of total revenues. That is, by any measure, a remarkable achievement.

My second “star” is Emaar. While Etisalat has looked abroad, Emaar took the decision to concentrate far more heavily on its UAE base. In December last year, chairman Mohamed Alabbar told me he planned to launch one new project every single week for the first half of the year. Not only did I think he was kidding, but I thought it was impossible. Somehow, he managed that, putting Emaar firmly back as the UAE’s premier developer. Promises to spin off the malls division into its own publicly listed entity were also kept, with the hugely successful stock market debut of Emaar Malls Group. Even though in recent weeks the share price has taken a battering along with the rest of the market, the one-year return is still 43 percent. In my view, a great year.

My third “star” is low cost carrier flydubai. I remember first hearing about its plans from Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed back in 2007 during a trip to China. At the time, it all sounded a bit disjointed, with even the name still to be chosen. Look at it now. While many of us have concentrated on the phenomenal growth of both Emirates and Etihad this year, flydubai boss Ghaith Al Ghaith has quietly gone about building something very, very special. This year it launched 26 new routes, with three more being rolled out in Q1 next year. It now flies to 89 destinations in 46 countries. And just look at the lucrative Indian market that Emirates and Etihad are rightly chasing so heavily: almost unnoticed, flydubai now has 29 flights a week to that part of the world. This is now a serious player in the global aviation industry. An incredible year.

So there are my three stars. What about the wooden spoon, the award for a company that, well, let’s just say would like to forget about 2014 as quickly as possible. There can only be one winner.

One word. Arabtec.

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