Gulf Toys R Us stores remain open as US company files for bankruptcy

Shoppers shop in a Toys R Us store on Black Friday in Miami. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Gulf Toys R Us stores remain open as US company files for bankruptcy

LONDON: Toys R Us stores in the Gulf remain open for business despite the US parent company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
A statement from the company said that the US operation and its Canadian unit would file for bankruptcy but that some 255 overseas stores were not part of the proceedings.
“The company intends to use these court-supervised proceedings to restructure its outstanding debt and establish a sustainable capital structure that will enable it to invest in long-term growth,” it said.
It added: “The company’s approximately 1,600 Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores around the world — the vast majority of which are profitable — are continuing to operate as usual.
Managers who spoke to Arab News at Toys R Us stores in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai said that they were trading as normal and were owned by separate entities.
Dubai-based Al Futtaim Group operates the largest number of Toys R Us stores in the region.
It has outlets in 19 locations across the Middle East and North Africa that include Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, according to its website.
The company was not immediately available for comment.
Several big high street names that have gone bust in Europe and the US in recent years have continued to trade in the Gulf states where they typically operate through standalone companies under licensing agreements with one of the big regional retail players.
Toys R Us is filing for bankruptcy as the global toys market begins to ramp up for its busiest time of the year.
CEO Dave Brandon said the company intended to work with creditors to restructure $5 billion of long-term debt on its balance sheet “which will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business, continue to improve the customer experience in our physical stores and online, and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide.”


Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

Updated 30 min 27 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia real estate reform ‘on the right track,’ housing minister tells conference

  • Financial Sector Conference is designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience
  • The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real estate finance sector — crucial to the ambition of a home-owning economy under the Vision 2030 strategy — is maturing rapidly, a high-profile event in Riyadh heard on Wednesday.
“We’re on the right track,” housing minister Majid Al-Hogail told attendees on the first day of the Financial Sector Conference, designed to showcase Saudi Arabia’s finance industry to a world audience.
His comments came as financial institutions in the Kingdom announced a raft of measures to encourage more home ownership.
The most eye-catching was a plan by the Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) — owned by the Public Investment Fund — to issue up to SR3.75 billion ($1 billion) worth of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, this year to finance home ownership plans.
Fabrice Susini, chief executive of the company, said SRC had spent SR1.2 billion buying mortgages from local mortgage finance companies and adding liquidity to these firms. SRC is often compared to US home finance group Fannie Mae.
Reform of the financial infrastructure of the property market is regarded as crucial to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plans, to ensure an ownership rate of 70 percent in the privately owned housing market by 2030.
In a panel entitled “Mortgages: Bolstering Industry Appetite,” Al-Hogail spoke of the unique position Saudi Arabia has in the housing market, highlighting the relevance of a database established by the Ministry of Housing to give a better and deeper understanding of the market. The diverse nature of the market presents its own challenges, he said.
“Every city has its own different set of challenges and we can’t generalize. With the establishment of the database, it provides the ministry with a better future outlook through more detailed information, obtained through various means — whether it were through the Electric Company, through the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, or through the General Authority for Statistics and their surveys.”
“Over 16 government agencies support the housing sector to achieve Saudi Vision objectives, to increase property ownership among Saudis to 70 percent by 2030,” he said.
An official report for the first quarter of 2019 revealed that the finance market reached SR5.6 billion last March. Some 12,800 citizens received loans, and 85 percent were subsidised.
Saudi Arabia last year announced plans to boost the size of the mortgage market to SR502 billion by 2020 as part of a comprehensive plan to provide housing finance to its citizens, facilitating a balanced and sustainable housing environment through the establishment and development programs.
In other deals, Bidaya Home Finance announced three initiatives to enhance the Saudi market. Its first initiative involved the sale of Bidaya’s mortgage portfolio to SRC, valued at SR500 million over a period of six months. SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview. “Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said.
“We are really looking at probably issuing something between SR2 to 4 billion that we may be issuing in two tranches.”
He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10- to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said. He added that the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the Saudi riyal.
In March, SRC completed a SR750 million sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to SR11 billion of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.