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.


Philippines posts 15 percent drop in cash remittance from Middle East

Updated 23 September 2018
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Philippines posts 15 percent drop in cash remittance from Middle East

  • There has been a 15 percent decrease in remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East, with fund transfers from Libya and Israel falling the most at 73 percent and 61 percent — Central Bank of the Philippines
  • Remittances from Kuwait fell by 20.4 percent despite resumption of OFW deployment; Bahrain showed negative 22.9 percent; transfers from Oman dropped by 38.3 percent; and Saudi Arabia showed a slide of 10.4 percent

MANILA: Cash remittance from Filipino workers (OFW), particularly those in the Middle East, saw a steep decline from January to July this year, figures from the Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) show.
A lawmaker noted that even the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipinos to Kuwait last May failed to stop the remittance plunge.
Based on latest BSP data, there was 15 percent decrease in remittances from OFWs in the Middle East, although fund transfers from Libya and Israel fell the most at 73 percent and 61 percent respectively.
With that, Rep. Henry Ong, chairman of the House Committee Chair on Banks & Financial Intermediaries, said the policy shift in OFW deployment priorities must happen “sooner rather than later.”
“Filipinos are being held hostage by armed groups in Libya. Israel recently welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte on a brief visit. However, the remittances from these two countries pale in comparison with those from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, which were in the high double-digit percentages decline,” he said.
Remittances from Kuwait fell by 20.4 percent despite the resumption of OFW deployment last May. Bahrain showed negative 22.9 percent, transfers from Oman dropped by 38.3 percent and Saudi Arabia showed a slide of 10.4 percent. 
Qatar is the exception. The remittances decline from Filipino workers there was only 6.3 percent.
The Leyte second district representative pointed out: “There should not even be Filipinos in Libya because the security situation there is horrible, but still Filipinos go because that is where they have found jobs on their own.
“OFWs clearly have bleak and low-paying job prospects here in the Philippines because our wages are way below what they can earn abroad, so we have no choice but to deploy them elsewhere, to countries that will pay them well and respect their rights as migrant workers and as people of varied gender.” .
For this to happen, Ong said the priority list of alternative countries “must include those states that are signatories to the international conventions on human rights, labor, social security, and migrant workers.
“The other criterion would be the economic growth prospects of the target host countries because that will determine how well they will be compensated for their services. OFWs will go where they are respected, wanted, and paid well.” 
Ong lamented, though, that “it does not seem the concerned top officials have what it takes to help OFWs find better jobs in new host countries.
“They are just doing bureaucratic procedures and damage control on the problems that keep cropping up, but we do not see systemic, long-term solutions. Suffering through all that are the OFWs.” 
Meanwhile, aside from the decrease in cash remittance, the Philippines also suffered a decline in deployment of OFWs in 2017 after 10 years of continuous growth.
Recruitment consultant and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani, citing statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administrstion (POEA), said deployment of OFWs to 180 countries went down by 9 percent in 2017 compared ith the previous year. The year 2016, Geslani said, was a banner year of deployment for OFWs with total deployment hitting more than two million.
POEA records show that only 1,992,746 OFWs were deployed in 2017. Geslani said this is the first time after 10 years of continuous increase starting in 2008 with 1,236,613 deployment; 2009 with 1,422,382; 2010 with 1,476,826; 2011 with 1,687,463; 2012 with 1,802,031; 2013 with 1,826,804; 2014 with 1,832,668; 2015 with 1,841,205; and 2016 with 2,112,331.
Geslani said the decrease may be attributed to actors, such as the decline in the hiring of new workers to Saudi Arabia, from 219,134 in 2016 down to 163,238 in 2017. 
A decrease in the number of new hires was also noted in the rest of the top ten OFW destinations, which include Kuwait, Qatar, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UAE, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman.
“Another reason for the decline is the increasing shift of Saudi Arabia to employ more citizens to work in companies and malls as part of its ‘Saudization’,” Geslani continued.
In addition, more major projects in the Kingdom have been shelved or delayed, resulting in the exodus of more than 30,000 Filipino skilled workers in construction, maintenance services and oil industries, he added. “Crude oil, which has stayed in the $70-80 level, has prevented Middle East countries from going on construction and infrastructure projects, except for Qatar which is preparing for the football World Cup in 2022.” 
Even the household service workers sector also dropped by 8 percent in 2017 owing to internal controls implemented by the Philippine labor officers in the Middle East, Geslani said.
For 2018, he predicts that deployment of household service workers is not expected to go beyond the 200,000 mark with the deployment ban imposed in Kuwait resulting in the loss of 40,000 jobs.