Yazen Abu Gulal Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: KBBO Group, an Abu Dhabi-based investment firm, is looking at acquisitions in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East region to grow its business, its new chief executive told Gulf News in an interview.

“The group has seen aggressive growth during the past five years where the group acquired a number of strategic assets in various sectors. Moving forward, we have an ambitious plan to acquire more assets in health care, retail and consumer food sectors to grow our business,” said Yazen Abu Gulal at the company’s office at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi.

The group will continue to target assets in the wider Middle East region moving forward with a specific focus on the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

It recently acquired Fathima supermarkets, a largescale retail and wholesale operator based in the UAE, as well as Sama Jordan Group, among the leading agri-food players in Jordan with an extensive farming, dairy and juice processing and distribution operation.

In Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, the group, according to Abu Gulal, is well positioned to benefit from the broadening of the economy and is trying to align with the government strategy. “We take Abu Dhabi 2030 vision as our guideline and are planning our strategy. It has strong economic and demographic fundamentals,” he said.

In Egypt, KBBO Group recently completed an early-stage investment in online shopping portal Yaoota, which currently generates approximately 15 million monthly page views, according to Abu Gulal.

The firm is close to finalising a strategic acquisition of a reputed multi-asset health-care platform in Egypt which will be announced soon, with further investment plans for the country under way, he said.

“Egypt was identified in the past as an attractive market that complemented our diversification plans and risk appetite. Its population base and positive long-term economic fundamentals were key factors that drove our recent investment decisions,” he said.

KBBO group announced investments plans of $2 billion (Dh7.3 billion) in Egypt during an economic conference in the resort town of Sharm Al Shaikh in 2015. The group is going ahead with its investment plans, he added.

Abu Gulal said the company is looking to acquire operational hospitals and educational institutions in Saudi Arabia foreseeing a growing demand due to initiatives of the government to boost the economy.

“We are in talks with some hospitals to finalise the transactions. We are targeting acquisitions not only in the main cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh but also in other cities including the northern part of the country. Our plan is to aggressively expand in Saudi Arabia as the country opens up and welcomes more investors,” he said.

Technology investment

The group is also looking at technology sector for potential investments. It has allocated $25 million to fund early start ups and is looking to increase the investment to $100 million in the next few years targeting retail, education, FinTech and health-care start-up firms.

Currently, KBBO’s investments range from financial services to defense and owns stakes in, amongst others, Abu Dhabi-based health-care provider NMC Group, Emirates Hospitals Group, UAE Exchange, Travelex and UAE Defence Technology Company.

It also has a DIFC-based joint venture with Guggenheim Partners, a New York-based global investment and advisory firm with leading M&A, advisory credentials and more than $260 billion in assets under management.

Abu Gulal added that IPO (initial public offering) plans of one of its investment subsidiaries, Centurion Partners, is put on hold due to market sentiment. The company announced in 2015 it was assessing a range of strategic alternatives to support further growth and development of certain businesses owned by Centurion Partners including an IPO.