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.


US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

Updated 19 August 2018
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US says conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative

  • Fears of oil scarcity no longer driver of US energy policy
  • Surging shale production brings energy abundance

WASHINGTON: Conserving oil is no longer an economic imperative for the US, the Trump administration declares in a major new policy statement that threatens to undermine decades of government campaigns for gas-thrifty cars and other conservation programs.
The position was outlined in a memo released last month in support of the administration’s proposal to relax fuel mileage standards. The government released the memo online this month without fanfare.
Growth of natural gas and other alternatives to petroleum has reduced the need for imported oil, which “in turn affects the need of the nation to conserve energy,” the Energy Department said. It also cites the now decade-old fracking revolution that has unlocked US shale oil reserves, giving “the United States more flexibility than in the past to use our oil resources with less concern.”
With the memo, the administration is formally challenging old justifications for conservation — even congressionally prescribed ones, as with the mileage standards. The memo made no mention of climate change. Transportation is the single largest source of climate-changing emissions.
President Donald Trump has questioned the existence of climate change, embraced the notion of “energy dominance” as a national goal, and called for easing what he calls burdensome regulation of oil, gas and coal, including repealing the Obama Clean Power Plan.
Despite the increased oil supplies, the administration continues to believe in the need to “use energy wisely,” the Energy Department said, without elaboration. Department spokesmen did not respond Friday to questions about that statement.
Reaction was quick.
“It’s like saying, ‘I’m a big old fat guy, and food prices have dropped — it’s time to start eating again,’” said Tom Kloza, longtime oil analyst with the Maryland-based Oil Price Information Service.
“If you look at it from the other end, if you do believe that fossil fuels do some sort of damage to the atmosphere ... you come up with a different viewpoint,” Kloza said. “There’s a downside to living large.”
Climate change is a “clear and present and increasing danger,” said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund.
In a big way, the Energy Department statement just acknowledges the world’s vastly changed reality when it comes to oil.
Just 10 years ago, in summer 2008, oil prices were peaking at $147 a barrel and pummeling the global economy. OPEC was enjoying a massive transfer of wealth, from countries dependent on imported oil. Prices now are about $65.
Today, the US is vying with Russia for the title of top world oil producer. US oil production hit an all-time high this summer, aided by the technological leaps of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
How much the US economy is hooked up to the gas pump, and vice versa, plays into any number of policy considerations, not just economic or environmental ones, but military and geopolitical ones, said John Graham, a former official in the George W. Bush administration, now dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.
“Our ability to play that role as a leader in the world is stronger when we are the strongest producer of oil and gas,” Graham said. “But there are still reasons to want to reduce the amount we consume.”
Current administration proposals include one that would freeze mileage standards for cars and light trucks after 2020, instead of continuing to make them tougher.
The proposal eventually would increase US oil consumption by 500,000 barrels a day, the administration says. While Trump officials say the freeze would improve highway safety, documents released this month showed senior Environmental Protection Agency staffers calculate the administration’s move would actually increase highway deaths.
“American businesses, consumers and our environment are all the losers under his plan,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. “The only clear winner is the oil industry. It’s not hard to see whose side President Trump is on.”
Administration support has been tepid to null on some other long-running government programs for alternatives to gas-powered cars.
Bill Wehrum, assistant administration of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, spoke dismissively of electric cars — a young industry supported financially by the federal government and many states — this month in a call with reporters announcing the mileage freeze proposal.
“People just don’t want to buy them,” the EPA official said.
Oil and gas interests are campaigning for changes in government conservation efforts on mileage standards, biofuels and electric cars.
In June, for instance, the American Petroleum Institute and other industries wrote eight governors, promoting the dominance of the internal-combustion engine and questioning their states’ incentives to consumers for electric cars.
Surging US and gas production has brought on “energy security and abundance,” Frank Macchiarola, a group director of the American Petroleum Institute trade association, told reporters this week, in a telephone call dedicated to urging scrapping or overhauling of one US program for biofuels.
Fears of oil scarcity used to be a driver of US energy policy, Macchiarola said.
Thanks partly to increased production, “that pillar has really been rendered essentially moot,” he said.