Dubai’s Al-Habtoor eyes hotel and leisure business in Saudi Arabia

The Al-Habtoor Group recently broke relations with Marriott International which was managing a major new project on the Dubai Canal. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 August 2018
0

Dubai’s Al-Habtoor eyes hotel and leisure business in Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Habtoor Group, the Dubai-based hotelier and leisure group, is considering a big move into Saudi Arabia
  • Hotels and leisure developments are a major element of the economic transformation of Saudi Arabia

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.

FASTFACTS

Al-Habtoor's origins

Al-Habtoor started life as a small engineering firm in 1970 before growing into a vast conglomerate with a global network of hotels.


Lebanon president: negative rumors about the economy harm country

Updated 36 min 9 sec ago
0

Lebanon president: negative rumors about the economy harm country

  • Lebanon has been without a government for four months since a national election
  • “The Lebanese pound is not in danger and Lebanon is not on the road to bankruptcy," Aoun said

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s currency is not in danger and rumors about the economy are causing harm, President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday, amid concern that a political deadlock has blocked urgent reforms and left the heavily indebted country vulnerable.
Lebanon has been without a government for four months since a national election. The central bank has issued repeated assurances about the soundness of the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar and the size of its foreign currency reserves, in response to speculation over the currency’s future.
“The Lebanese pound is not in danger and Lebanon is not on the road to bankruptcy. The economic situation is difficult but the things being spread as rumors are harming Lebanon,” Aoun said, in comments published by his office.
“We do not deny that there is a crisis,” Aoun said, but added that the country was working to address it.
Lebanon had the world’s third highest debt-to-GDP ratio, at over 150 percent, at the end of 2017. The International Monetary Fund wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve debt sustainability.
The failure of politicians to form a government needed to undertake the necessary reforms following the parliamentary election in May has added to concern for the economy.
Leaders from across the political spectrum have in recent months said the political stalemate is harming the economy and a government needs to be formed. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri this month said the country was in “intensive care” and the economic situation was “very dangerous.”
While politicians have stopped short of saying the peg is in danger, some economic analysts abroad have been considering the possibility of a devaluation.
“Lebanon’s ongoing political stalemate has renewed market concerns over the country’s frail balance sheets which could propel the government to devalue the Lebanese Pound ... Under this scenario, the authorities would find it increasingly challenging to service their large foreign currency debts,” Japan’s MUFG Bank said in a report on Wednesday.