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Qatar’s Mannai Working On Two Foreign Acquisitions – CEO

Qatar’s Mannai Working On Two Foreign Acquisitions – CEO

The company is looking outside the Middle East for deals in areas excluding real estate, construction, fast-moving consumer goods and marine sectors.

Qatari investment firm Mannai Corporation is working on two acquisitions as part of a drive to expand the proportion of its revenue from international sources to 80 percent, its chief executive told Reuters.

Foreign investment from the Gulf state is normally associated with multi-billion-dollar deals by the Qatar Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund, which has bought stakes in top European companies and luxury brands such as Harrods.

However, private-sector funds are also looking to buy overseas, with Mannai eyeing majority stakes in businesses with an overall value of between $400 million and $600 million.

“Our thing is not to go for trophy assets but to find sustainable, profitable, growth-generating businesses,” chief executive Alekh Grewal said in an interview.

“We’re looking for businesses which not only provide us with a consistent level of net income, but something that if we come into it, whether they need capital or management, we could enhance their business model and grow it further.”

He declined to identify targets but said Mannai was looking outside the Middle East in areas excluding real estate, construction, fast-moving consumer goods and marine sectors.

Mannai has spent around $1 billion on acquisitions in recent years, including to fully acquire jewellery firm Damas and take a 35 per cent stake in retailer Axiom Telecom, which left the split around equal between revenue generated inside and outside Qatar, Grewal said.

The firm announced on Feb. 24 an 18 per cent increase in 2014 net profit to 526 million riyals ($144.5 million), with return on equity of 24.3 per cent.

Grewal said it was hunting for jewellery firms in Hong Kong and Singapore earlier this year without success and was now turning its attention to the United States, which accounted for 50 per cent of the world’s retail diamond sales and was benefiting from strong economic growth; albeit with a highly-local jewellery sector.

LIQUIDITY

Since May, Mannai has been trying to boost trading in its shares through a market-making mechanism provided by local trading firm The Group which, Grewal says, is the first of its kind in Qatar.

The result has been to move it away from being one of the most illiquid stocks on the 43-member exchange. On Feb. 24 2014, it didn’t trade at all, but on the same day in 2015, the most recent data, it was the 19th most-traded stock by volume.

“It was very disappointing in the past as we declared every year fantastic results and our share price didn’t move one cent,” said Grewal, CEO for six-and-a-half years.

Mannai’s shares are near-85 percent held by three shareholders, the largest being Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding with 53.7 per cent.

While he doesn’t foresee any divesting their stakes, Grewal believes improved liquidity will set the firm on the path to eventual inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets index.

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