Monday 28, May 2018 by Jessica Combes

Gulf Capital targets Middle East ‘new oil’—consumers


Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Capital aims to invest $350 million over the next two years consumer-led sectors and renewable energy

The decision comes as the company shifts its interests away from oil and gas and infrastructure.

“The new oil in this region is the consumer. We have the youngest, fastest-growing and wealthiest consumer society, so there are huge opportunities investing in fast-growing, consumer-led sectors,” Karim El Solh, Gulf Capital's co-founder and CEO, told Reuters.

Gulf Capital bought a stake in Geidea, the leading provider of electronic payment solutions in Saudi Arabia, for a deal value exceeding SAR1 billion riyals, earlier this month. In addition to fintech, other sectors the private equity firm is increasingly targeting include renewable energy, technology, consumer and business services and defensive sectors offering high growth rates, El Solh added.

Gulf Capital sees opportunities in Saudi Arabia, where the Government privatising a number of sectors, creating an entertainment industry, including cinemas and a resort far bigger than Disney World, and intends to produce 9.5 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023.

El Solh said the current economic cycle is a good time to look into attractive valuations and Gulf Capital aims to invest $350 million from its latest $750 million fund and expects 2018 to be one of its busiest years for deals. It also has some $150 million available from its latest $251 million private debt fund, Reuters said.

Gulf Capital is targeting four exits this year—via trade sales as well as the stock market—which could make 2018 the first year since its launch in 2006 in which it returns more money to investors than it deploys, El Solh said.

It is in the midst of selling its remaining 27 per cent stake in Gulf Marine Services through block trades on the London Stock Exchange, and selling its stake in Destinations of the World, a travel company formed in Dubai in 1993, Reuters reported.

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