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Muted reaction to Arabtec’s top management changes

The construction giant’s share price dipped slightly on news that three senior executives resigned

Gulf News

Dubai: Investors did not overreact to the new announcement of further top-level management departures at Arabtec, with the share closing at Dh2.48 and down 7 fils on Wednesday. The construction giant issued a statement on Dubai Financial Market that three executives — including Iyad Abdal Rahim, the Group Chief Financial Officer — had put in their resignations. This will add to the departures of the company’s founder Riad Kamal, and also a CEO.

The statement added that it was part of the new leadership’s mandate to “undertake a reorganisation of certain business functions to optimise cost savings”. The intended result would lead to a “sharing of resources to reduce the Group’s overall administrative cost overheads”.

Ravi Murthy has been confirmed as acting Group CFO. He has been with the company for 18 years.

In the statement, the company noted that all terminations of employees stemmed from the ongoing “cost-saving programme”. “The company will continue to implement strategy aiming to increase productivity and efficiency to win new projects, which in return will increase benefits to its shareholders and investor,” it added.

Now, the market will be awaiting the first half results. Any improvement on the numbers that it put up for the first quarter should be enough to reassure wary investors.

But some investors are still concerned. “The change of CFO as well as of the Legal Counsel [Wassel Al Fakhoury] could have more to it than what’s been said,” said one investors. “It’s obviously a point of concern and there has been a lot of chatter.

“Arabtec has become more and more opaque about its strategy and outlook, and that’s not giving investors any sort of comfort.”

According to Sameer Lakhani, Managing Director of Global Capital Partners, another investor who has got exposure in the scrip, “Today’s price reaction was muted partly because the stock has significantly underperformed the averages. It could also be that investors see limited downside from current levels … unless there is another surprise.” The stock’s 52-week low is Dh1.98.

The upcoming first six months’ financials will also give indicators of whether Arabtec has been able to staunch — even overcome — contractual changes related to its existing projects. It created a vicious cycle delayed payments and which had such a seismic impact on its first-quarter top- and bottom-line numbers. Plus, there will need to be some clarity over its multibillion project to develop affordable homes in Egypt.

“In an environment of slow markets, an elongated payment plan there will always be concerns over further downsides,” said an investor.

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