Aldar Properties CEO Talal Al Dhiyebi with Lulu chairman Yousuf Ali M.A. after the opening of a Lulu hypermarket at the World Trade Centre in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Image Credit: Courtesy: Lulu

Abu Dhabi: The Lulu Group plans to enter China and continue expanding in the Gulf with a Dh2 billion investment outlay in the short term, its chairman and managing director has said.

The UAE-headquartered Lulu group, a dominant player in the retail hyper and supermarkets segment will be entering China within a year, officials say.

Entry details are being worked out.

This will be Lulu’s third East Asian market after Indonesia and Malaysia. Lulu is also present in India.

“We are opening a hypermarket in China as there is a large population and food demand is expected to rise. We already have a logistics and sourcing office,” chairman Yousuf Ali M.A. told Gulf News at the opening of a Lulu Hypermarket at The Mall, World Trade Centre, in Abu Dhabi.

The latest outlet, providing employment to 800 people, becomes the 148th branch of the group.

The group also has a presence in other Gulf countries including Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It will soon open a hypermarket in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, which will be its 150th branch in the region.

In Abu Dhabi, the retail group plans six hypermarkets and four Lulu Express centres over the next eighteen months.

Despite a slowdown in the Gulf economies due to low oil prices, Yousuf Ali is bullish about growth prospects.

He said he would continue to expand in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf markets.

“I have got confidence in the growth of the UAE’s as well as Abu Dhabi’s economy. Low oil prices is a temporary phenomenon. I have seen it in 1978 and also in 1989. People were discussing when petrol prices were $30 or $32 per barrel what will happen but nobody is discussing when petrol prices are at $80. Regardless of how oil prices are, I will continue to expand.”

The Lulu Group has big plans for Saudi Arabia as the country opens up to foreign investment and welcomes investors from across the globe, Ali said.

The group will soon be opening a hypermarket in Riyadh and another one in Tabuk.

“Saudi Arabia’s economy is strong and growing under the leadership of the Saudi king and the crown prince. They are bringing a lot of changes and reforms. Today you may not see the effect of those changes but after six to eight months you would know how the country has improved,” Ali said.

When asked about competition in the retail sector, he said the company respects healthy competition.

“We like healthy competition as it is good for us to improve standards. The competition is not getting stiffer.”

The retail group is also eyeing expansion in India with five hypermarkets in Lucknow, Visakhapatnam, Trivandrum, Bengaluru and Chennai.