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UAE’s Empower prepares for international expansion

DUBAI’S government-backed energy solutions provider, Empower is in talks with banks over a move outside the UAE into regional markets.

DUBAI’S government-backed energy solutions provider, Empower is in talks with banks over a move outside the UAE into regional markets.

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone joint venture, formed in 2003, is looking to expand internationally and become the world’s biggest player in its sector.

To fund the move, the company is believed to be seeking an amount greater than its start-up capital of US$140 million.

“Currently we are focusing on utilising our capital with funding from the local banks, then we will start leveraging our income by getting money from outside,” Ahmad Bin Shafar, chief executive officer of Empower told Arabian Business. “The rest of the money will be financed by local banks. We are also approaching international banks as well,” he added.

Empower, part of the government-owned investment vehicle Dubai Holding, was created to provide environmentally sound air conditioning systems that would cut the operational costs of Dubai’s large-scale developments.

The company has or is in the process of supplying district cooling systems for the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai Business Bay, Dubailand, the Dubai Light Rail (DLR), the properties of hotel group Jumeirah and the World Trade Centre.

It plans to use Dubai Holding’s recent forays abroad to expand the reach of its own business. “Internationally, we are moving with Dubai Holding wherever they go,” said Bin Shafar. “We are a partner with them and we are working to develop the processes for our first international step,” he added.

According to analysts, huge opportunities for district cooling companies are being created in the Middle East by the region’s real estate boom and the inadequate state of existing electricity infrastructure.

Dubai already has several district cooling companies operating in a semi-competitive environment. The biggest, Abu Dhabi-based National Central Cooling Company (Tabreed), is developing systems for the Sheikh Zayed highway network, while property developers Emaar and Nakheel also have their own cooling divisions.

“At the moment we are still the second [biggest district cooling company] in the UAE market, but in the very near future we will be the leading [one] — I would say by the end of 2006,” Bin Shafar added.

However, he said the companies are looking to join forces on some domestic projects. “We are not going to serve the whole market. We are trying to work to associate … towards the goal of prevention of spending a lot of money in providing power.”

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