Banking on Al Ghurair

I am big admirer of Mashreqbank boss Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who has shown great skill in making his bank one of the best – and most profitable in the region. It has also helped make him one of the richest Arabs in the world, with a reputed fortune touching US$6 billion.

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By  Ben Dawson Published  May 28, 2006

|~||~||~|I am big admirer of Mashreqbank boss Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who has shown great skill in making his bank one of the best – and most profitable in the region. It has also helped make him one of the richest Arabs in the world, with a reputed fortune touching US$6 billion. And it looks like things may soon be about to get even better. Three weeks ago Al Ghurair was placed on the board of the new look DIFC, as one of the “grandees” overseeing the financial centre. He already knows a lot about it, having recently decided to list his subsidiary Mashreq Capital on the DIFX. “The DIFX will serve as a gateway for the flow of capital to and from the region. We look forward to operating on the DIFX as an active market participant and we believe it will become the premier international exchange in the Middle East,” he said at the time. Well, my spies tell me that so impressed is Al Ghurair by what he has seen, he is considering taking the whole of Mashreqbank public. If so, it would be quite a feat, with a market value of at least US$4 billion. The talk of flotation comes as Mashreqbank continues its lateral expansion programme at great pace, and so far, great success. Any flotation would be the icing on the cake. Low cost, high return On the subject of going public, it looks like the “flotation” craze is sweeping the region. During lunch at the World Economic Forum in Egypt last week, my spies tell me that low cost airline tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou is also eyeing the DIFX for a future listing, as part of his plans to raise capital for a chain of budget hotels in the region. Stelios has already raised cash through venture capitalists, but according to friends , he thinks this might be a clearer way forward. Bottled up Water company Masafi last month confirmed plans to bring out its own line of juices, and so far appears serious: over US$11 million has been set aside for the venture. But having practically conquered the region’s bottled water market, word reaches me that the company is now actively looking abroad for expansion. An office has already been set up in Kenya, and a big announcement is expected in the next three weeks. You read it here first... Tommy’s troubles Two weeks ago I was heaping praise on American fashion guru Tommy Hilfiger. You may recall that I expressed delight at how mellow Hilfiger was these days, compared to the last time I met him six years ago. Well I may have spoken too soon! Shortly after our meeting, Hilfiger boarded an Emirates Airline jet for a direct flight to New York. A day later he was in Manhattan’s Plumm nightclub with his girlfriend Dee Ocleppo. The duo bumped into former Guns & Roses singer Axel Rose and a scuffle broke out after the singer Moved the drink of Hilfiger’s girlfriend. “I moved his girlfriend’s drink so it wouldn’t spill,” Rose told the Los Angeles radio station KROQ. “He just kept smacking me."||**||

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