Investcorp to fit out some of its part-owned Saudi gyms for women

Investcorp acquired a 25 percent stake in 2013 in Leejam Sports, which operates fitness clubs in Saudi Arabia under the Fitness Time brand. (Courtesy Leejam Sports)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Investcorp to fit out some of its part-owned Saudi gyms for women

ABU DHABI: Bahrain-based private equity firm Investcorp is turning some of the gyms it part owns in Saudi Arabia into women-only facilities in response to surging demand, its co-chief executive said on Thursday.
The move comes as the deeply conservative kingdom embarks on a transformation that encompasses giving women more freedoms, including being allowed to drive and attend sporting events.
“Recently the regulations were relaxed to allow women gyms. There’s tremendous demand, so we are re-purposing some of our existing gyms that used to be male-only to female-only,” Rishi Kapoor told reporters on the sidelines of a business event.
Investcorp acquired a 25 percent stake in 2013 in Leejam Sports, which operates fitness clubs in Saudi Arabia under the Fitness Time brand. Around 40 of the roughly 115 existing gyms will be refitted this year to become women-only, Investcorp said.
Kapoor said Leejam was a “likely candidate” for Investcorp to consider exiting its investment, but didn’t elaborate.
Investcorp has previously considered an initial public offering (IPO) for the company, but on Thursday declined to comment on any potential IPO.
Investcorp is looking at acquisition opportunities in Saudi Arabia arising from a push to privatize the economy, with a focus on health care, including long-term care, post-acute rehabilitation and preventative care, Kapoor said.
The company is in advanced stages of merger and acquisition deals in the Gulf, the US and Europe, he said.
Each of the deals would be within the company’s targeted enterprise value — equity plus debt — of $200 million to $500 million, he added.
Investcorp, founded in 1982, is one of the oldest Middle Eastern private equity houses and is best known outside the region for listing luxury goods brands such as Gucci and Tiffany & Co.
But the company is increasingly branching out into other sectors, with Kapoor highlighting infrastructure and credit as among those where it is scouting for acquisitions.
The company aims to raise its assets under management to $50 billion in five to seven years from $22.4 billion at the end of December.
In future, more of those assets are likely to come from Asia, where the company is placing greater focus since opening an office in Singapore last year.
Currently, around 35 percent of its assets are in the Gulf, with a similar proportion in the US and smaller one in Europe, Kapoor said.
Asia’s contribution will rise from less than 10 percent now to around 25 percent over five to seven years, he said.


Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

Updated 17 February 2019
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Saudi oil refinery in Gwadar to help Islamabad save $3 billion a year

  • The refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed
  • Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for liquified natural gas in Pakistan, says Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to agree a deal to build an oil refinery and petrochemical complex at the Balochistani deep-sea Port of Gwadar, during the first state-level visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The deal will see Pakistan join with Saudi Aramco to build the facility, expected to cost $10 billion.

“We are working on feasibility studies for the establishment of the oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar, and will be ready to start by early 2020,” Pakistan’s Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Arab News on Thursday.

Once established, the project will help the South Asian nation cut its annual crude oil imports by up to $3 billion annually, in addition to creating thousands of job opportunities in the impoverished western province.

The country spends more than $16 billion each year on importing 26 million tons of petroleum products, including 800 million cubic feet of liquified natural gas (LNG) from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf countries.

Khan claimed the refinery would produce up to 300,000 barrels per day once completed.

“The Saudi authorities have asked us to complete all the initial work on the project on a fast track, as they want to set it up as early as possible,” he said.

A Saudi technical team, including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, has visited Gwadar twice in recent months to examine the site for the refinery, getting briefings from Pakistani officials on security in the area near the border with Iran.

“We will ensure complete security for Saudi investments and people working on the project. A detailed security plan has already been chalked up with help of the security agencies,” Khan added.

Pakistan currently has five oil refineries, but they can only satisfy half of its annual demand. Islamabad and Riyadh have long maintained strong ties, with the latter repeatedly offering the former financial assistance. Last year, the Kingdom guaranteed Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports, to help stave off an economic crisis. The Islamic Republic also received $3 billion from the UAE to protect its foreign reserves.

Khan added that the Pakistani-Arab Refinery Co. (PARCO) was also setting up an oil refinery at Khalifa Point, near the city of Hub in Balochistan. 

“The work on this project is at an advanced stage. Land for it has been acquired and other formalities are being fulfilled,” he said.

Khan hopes the world’s perception of Pakistan will change upon completion of these deals, after years of war in the surrounding region. Exxon Mobil returned to Pakistan last month after 27 years, and started offshore drilling with $75 million of initial investments. 

“All results of the drilling are positive so far, and we expect huge oil and gas reserves to be discovered soon,” he said.

“More foreign companies are contacting us to invest in offshore drilling and exploration. Saudi Arabia is also setting up reservoirs for LNG in Pakistan. More Saudi investment will come to Pakistan with the passage of time.”