x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Abu Dhabi investment firm Waha Capital putting war chest to use

Waha Capital has a 'significant war chest' and is mulling investing in new sectors including education and health care.

Waha Capital, an investment company based in Abu Dhabi with a "significant war chest", is mulling investing in new sectors including education and health care, its chief executive and managing director said yesterday.

Salem Al Noaimi was speaking after the firm reported net profit of Dh214.4 million (US$58.3m) for last year, up 38.1 per cent from Dh155.3m the year before. It marked the 10th year in a row of profitability for Waha, which started as an aircraft leasing company called Oasis International Leasing in 1997.

The company has evolved to add financial services, oil and gas and property to its portfolio.

Now it is looking to bolster its presence in those areas as well as other sectors of strategic importance to the Government, said Mr Al Noaimi.

"They are sectors that are important to the Government, sectors with high opportunity for growth such as education and health care," he said.

"It would be mainly investments in the UAE as we like to build our expertise in our backyard."

Low-income housing, another sector highlighted as important by the Government, was another area Waha was considering investing in, he said.

"We have a significant war chest, which is enough to us in the short to medium term," said Mr Noaimi.

It also has a Dh1 billion mandatory convertible note, approved by shareholders in reserve.

"A core issue or dilemma for investment companies is deploying capital," he said. "Why haven't I deployed that Dh1bn? But that is not my core focus. Ensuring the profitability of the company is my core focus. I will tap into that [Dh1bn] as and when we need to."

Strong performances from Waha's investee companies, including the New York-listed aviation leasing company AerCap and Dunia Finance, in which Waha has a 25 per cent stake, contributed to the company's earnings last year. AerCap was a key driver of profits as Waha's stake in the firm rose to 26.3 per cent from 21.3 per cent due its decision not to participate in AerCap's share-back initiative during the year.

The increased stake helped to propel the company's fourth quarter net profit up 97.3 per cent to Dh183.47m from the same period last year.

AerCap signed $1.5bn of new financing last year and purchased 20 new aircraft. It also delivered 25 aircraft under lease and signed lease agreements for 47 others.

Mr Al Noaimi said AerCap's scale had helped to weather the impact of high fuel prices and aircraft problems.

Of the company's other assets, Stanford Marine Group, an oil and gas services firm in which Waha has a 49 per cent stake, took delivery of two new vessels during the year and won a contract to operate in Tanzania.

Dunia Finance's revenue base rose 37.4 per cent to Dh267m, while Waha Land, a subsidiary of Waha, completed the first phase of its light industrial and warehousing development near Musaffah in Abu Dhabi.

The value of Waha's assets stood at Dh4.44bn as of the end of last year, compared with Dh4.2bn a year earlier.

The firm's shares on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange rose 4.5 per cent yesterday to close at Dh0.69.

tarnold@thenational.ae