DUBAI: Al-Habtoor Group, the Dubai-based hotelier and leisure group, is considering a big move into Saudi Arabia to take advantage of the new entertainment opportunities available under the Vision 2030 transformation.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Mohammed Al-Habtoor, chief executive and vice chairman of the family-owned conglomerate, said he was planning a fact-finding mission to the Kingdom soon and was already in contact with potential business partners there.
“We have done business there in the past, but now there is more and more news and events happening there. I’ve learned more about Saudi Arabia in the past year than ever before. I’m planning a fact-finding mission there soon to go around the Kingdom and see the opportunities for myself.
“I will not just be in Riyadh, but in the big tourism areas outside too. I see big potential for the hospitality business there. We are in contact with potential business partners and plan to take it further after the summer. Saudi is very interesting for us. It is the biggest market in the region and Al-Habtoor is a well known name there. Saudis know it from their leisure visits to Dubai. We will definitely be doing more business there in the future,” he said.
Hotels and leisure developments are a major element of the economic transformation of Saudi Arabia, which is seeking to diversify away from oil dependency. Projects such as NEOM, the Red Sea Resort and Al-Qiddiya present big business opportunities for leisure companies as the Kingdom aims to keep more tourist riyals in the country, rather than being spent abroad.
Al-Habtoor also revealed that the group — which has other interests in automotive sales, real estate and education in addition to hotels in the Middle East, Europe and the US — was still considering an initial public offering of shares on a stock market. It got close to an IPO three years ago, but eventually decided against going public.
“We’ve been looking at it as a possibility for 20 years or so. All the time, we are looking at the figures and talking to investment bankers. It was a good decision three years ago not to go for an IPO, but maybe we’ll look at it again when the whole region is more stable.
“We’re always thinking about it, and we’ll think again. There is cash and liquidity in the region, which are essential for an IPO. There will be a Al-Habtoor IPO sooner or later, the only question is when,” he added.