Dubai: Alternative asset manager Gulf Capital is betting big on technology firms built in the desert after the successful acquisitions of Careem and Souq.com.
The firm, which has assets under management (AUM) of more than $3 billion (Dh11 billion), hopes to invest in two financial technology (fintech) companies in the next 12 months out of the five deals it has targeted.
“We are seeing more large sizeable technology [opportunities] as an investment theme. We are looking at one or more technology or fintech investments,” Dr Karim El Solh, chief executive officer of Gulf Capital, told Gulf News in an interview.
The asset manager also plans to invest in the health care, logistics and entertainment sectors in Saudi Arabia.
New Gulf story
“We are excited about the growth of technology, fintech and e-commerce companies in the region. That is what we call the new Gulf story,” El Solh said.
“The new China is doing very well, and the same is happening in India, with some exposure in e-commerce, fintech and payments companies. The same growth will come to the Gulf and we want to be a part of the new Gulf story.”
Gulf Capital said it invested and even exited from five tech companies, and his outlook has been boosted due to acquisitions of Careem and Souq.com, both incubated in Dubai. Uber bought Careem for $3.1 billion while Amazon acquired Souq.com for $580 million.
“We are selling as many businesses than we are buying. This shows the maturity of our business and the private equity [sector] in the region. Companies are becoming profitable, sizeable and ready for exits,” Solh said.
Last year, the private equity firm exited from Gulf Marine Services whose internal rate of return (IRR) was 31 per cent. It also exited Amana Healthcare earlier in the year.
“The more exits that we have — such as Careem, Souq.com and Destinations of the World, Gulf Marine Services — the more we can prove to our investors that we can make more returns here. More money would come to the region, and we would see increased growth in PE [private equity] in the region,” El Solh said.
“The outlook is bright, There is recovery in the economy and certain sectors are outperforming that growth rate.”
The alternative asset manager is also planning to exit from at least three to five investments over the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, Gulf Capital revealed on Monday that had acquired 70 per cent in cosmetics company Medica Holding to take advantage of robust growth in the industry.
“We have a track record of taking local companies and making them global. We want Medica to increase the market share in the Gulf and the Middle East and also in south Asia, China and Africa,” El Solh said.
He expects an IRR of 15-25 per cent, similar to what he expects from a company operating in other emerging markets.
Dr Karim El Solh, chief executive officer of private equity firm Gulf Capital, has dismissed media reports of a merger with Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) listed Waha Capital.
Waha Capital and Gulf Capital are rumoured to have held discussions exploring the possibility of a merger with the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) listed firm.
“It’s a rumour, speculation. There is nothing to it,” Solh said.
Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala has a minority stake in Waha Capital while the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC), a unit of Mubadala, is a shareholder in Gulf Capital.