Al Masah Capital’s 6th Investor Forum puts the spotlight on trends in various business sectors and industry laterals of MENA region

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Al Masah Capital, a leading UAE centric alternative asset management company, concluded yet another successful edition of its Annual Investor Forum that was held at the Ritz Carlton, DIFC. Gathering banking and investment experts from around the world, the forum held presentations and panel discussions that shed light on the most important issues being faced by the region’s real estate, healthcare, and consumer driven industries as well as the overall economic climate in the Middle East and North Africa.

“It has been our privilege to have financial experts on our discussion panel and we are extremely delighted with the success of our 6th Annual Investor Forum,” said Mr. Shailesh Dash, founder and CEO of Al Masah Capital. “The depth of our speakers’ market knowledge, expansive study as well unique insights that they possess, transcend the realms of acquired information. We are delighted that we have delivered to our guests, unmatched understanding of the regional economic scenario that will help investors looking to spot potential future trends in the industries that we cover. We are grateful for their participation and cannot thank enough for making this event a resounding success,” he added.

Akber Naqvi, Head of Asset Management at Al Masah presented the current state regional economies and outlook. He stated that the region’s heavy reliance on the oil sector needs to change and investments need to diversify into non-oil economies to ensure positive growth. In order to retain a sound economy status that will sail smoothly even in volatile market situations, the MENA region needs to invest beyond the oil sector where non-oil GDP has been growing faster. Where countries like KSA and UAE are doing well with their commitment going strong towards diversifying its investments to find new revenue engines; countries like Qatar and Egypt need to pick the right sectors to drive their GDP towards active growth. Recognizing problems, rectifying errors and diversified plans for the future will play strong in the region and Active Portfolio Management will be the key to finding positive revenue returns. For regional valuation, the region is cheap as compared to the rest of the world but fundamentally it offers great opportunities going forward.

Highlighting the changing political landscape in Europe and US and its spill over effects on Global Capital markets and MENA region, Mr. John Authers (Senior Financial Columnist, Financial Times and author of ‘The Fearful Rise of Markets and Europe’s Financial Crisis) mentioned that the Brexit will have a lasting negative impact but the confidence amongst consumers has stayed surprisingly high. A weaker Pound Sterling continues to act as buffer as inflation forecast has shot up in recent weeks. The US on the other hand and its elections were greeted by an upsurge of market confidence. A tighter monetary policy could strengthen the USD and tax policy remains crucial for everything that will follow. China on the other hand embarked on a fresh credit expansion in February 2016 which has had a significant effect on rest of the world. Even if their currency is at its weakest in a decade, it still remains important to countries exposed to trade, such as the UAE.

Top executives from the world’s most prominent financial and banking institutions held a panel discussion on the GCC Healthcare Services sector and its current status as an attractive investment opportunity. Dhiraj Joshi, (Partner, Healthcare Strategy – Middle East at PriceWaterhouseCoopers) Pervez Akhtar, (Regional Managing Partner and Head of Corporate MENA at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer) Kevin Gallagher, (Managing Director, Healthcare Investment Banking, Citibank) and Amitava Ghosal, (Executive Board Member and CEO, Avivo Group); discussed the challenges and benefits of investing in the healthcare industry. The panel shared insights on the respective government’s encouragement on having a private sector partner in the industry lateral. The governments’ role as a regulator has definitely enhanced to complement the healthcare services industry, positively. The panel agreed that institutional investors see great opportunity in the region’s healthcare industry and it has huge potential to deliver returns. This sector has always grown in the region with 2016 being a clear indicator where 90% of the Healthcare sector portfolio registered growth and some grew between 16%-17% in terms of revenue. Amitava Ghosal concluded that the Healthcare sector is a lucrative opportunity for investments in the region.

A panel of education specialists and investment bankers comprising of Ashwin Assomull (MD, Parthenon-EY) Gian Piero Sammartano (Executive Director, EMEA, TMT Investment Banking, J.P. Morgan) Nrupaditya Singhdeo (CEO, Al Najah Education) and Nazim Rehman (CEO, Pelaburan MARA Berhad) discussed key characteristics of K12 education industry that made it attractive to investors. With strong demand, long term revenues, increase in fees and high barriers to entry; finding the right business partner could be a challenge in this industry. Highlighting the increase in population resulting in demand for more schools and rise in income levels that will in turn fuel the demand for high quality schools; the panel agreed upon lot of scope for expansion in the GCC. In addition to state of art facilities, quality education and well-trained staff; the use of technology in the educational field will prove a differentiating point for schools to flourish.

Discussing the Real Estate Asset Management Services and its importance in growing regional markets, the panel that included Nicholas Maclean, (Managing Director, Middle East, CBRE) Greg Ward, (Managing Director, Transguard Group) Philip Atkinson, (Corporate Finance Partner, Grant Thornton) and Stephen Flanagan, (Partner and Head of Valuation, MENA) along with Ryan Fansa, (Director – Head of Real Estate, Al Masah Capital); reviewed the GCC Real Estate sector as one of the fastest growing in the world. Amongst all markets; Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have emerged stronger owing to international projects, foreign investment flows and growing population. In addition to this, the upcoming Expo 2020 that will be hosted in Dubai and FIFA 2022 to be hosted in Doha, primarily buoyed the demand for exclusively designed amenities and world-class infrastructure spaces. Overall, the Real Estate Sector’s performance has been stable despite oil price fluctuations and is likely to be resilient and register growth, capitulating ample opportunities for the service providers. The discussion also made a worthy mention of the regional governments proactive bid to invest interest and funds to move the region’s development beyond oil economy.

Other notable presentations included an overview of the latest trends in Digital Transformation and the Implications for consumer-driven industries. Insightful information and thoughts shared by Jonathan Rowley, Director-Digital Transformation, Ernst & Young and Omar Istalifi, General Manager, eCommerce, Al Futtaim Retail Division pointed towards a rather encouraging growth given the rise in reliance upon digital modes of consumerism.

“We are already looking forward to our next Investor Forum, and we promise to make it bigger and better with utmost relevance to the economic and business issues of the time and region,” Mr. Dash concluded.