Dubai: Dubai Investments will be developing an industrial cluster, which will also feature residential and office components, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, modelled on the one it operates in Dubai. Land totalling 11,000 square metres and costing SR1.2 billion (Dh1.17 billion) has been acquired for the project in which Dubai Investments will have a 20 per cent stake.

There are plans to develop a further two projects in Saudi Arabia in tandem with partners there, which will also be the company’s first outside of Dubai. Dubai Investments is aiming for a wider geography with the industrial parks, with Angola rated as a firm possibility. A land mass of 45,000-50,000 square kilometres in the African state could be finalised shortly, while Tunisia and Morocco are also on the radar. A team would be making visits next month preparatory to the finalisation.

Along with developing the parks, Dubai Investments will also be looking to create bases for some of the light manufacturing operations in its portfolio.

Closer to home, the holding company expects to acquire a property firm in Abu Dhabi within days, and close the deal — announced earlier — to take on board Al Mal Capital, the financial services firm.

“This will be the year of acquisitions to bring in businesses that are complementary to our three main lines — real estate, manufacturing and financial services,” said Khalid Bin Kalban, Managing Director and CEO. “Having Al Mal’s expertise on board (the firm has Dh500 million on its balance sheet) enables us to identify possible new acquisitions and even advise exits from existing businesses in our portfolio.

“We have more than 30 entities in our portfolio, some of which are by way of passive investments. If an investor comes around to buy up our interests, we would consider that … but we are not going to make any of the approaches ourselves.”

Recently, the company exited its 66 per cent stake in GlobalPharma, the proceeds of which were used to retire some of the more “expensive debt” it had on the books. GlobalPharma was valued at $160 million.

The multiple initiatives by the company — marking its 20th year of operations in July — represent a major scaling up of its future operations. Until now, the company’s entire focus had been within the UAE, with real estate making up 53 per cent of the revenue mix, 20 per cent coming from contracting/manufacturing and investments contributing the rest.

Dubai Investment Park will see a substantial influx of new funding, in the range of Dh6 billion to Dh7 billion, both by the owning company as well as those initiated by private sector investors. The cluster is on the cusp of a major breakthrough brought on by closeness to the Maktoum International Airport, the Dubai Parks & Resorts developments and those that will be built for the Expo 2020, according to Kalban.

There is also a Dh400 million mixed-use project in Fujairah.

Meanwhile, the company is venturing into academia through the setting up of a campus in Dubai through an affiliation with Beirut University. The plan is to launch the courses from September itself.

Another exposure would be in health care through a $60 million outlay. This is to be announced formally within the fortnight.

“At the time of the financial crisis, we took a deliberate policy of slowing down on the asset build up,” said Kalban. “Not much funding was available for one, and also we preferred to use funds available to us on paying off the debts of subsidiaries. We never had any need to restructure our loans, nor did we fault on payments. And we kept paying dividends.

“Now, we are ready to take Dubai Investments to the next stage.”