x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arqaam Capital targets Africa and South East Asia for expansion push

Arqaam Capital may expand in South East Asia and Africa in the coming year as demand for emerging-market assets spurs revenue.

Arqaam Capital may expand in South East Asia and Africa in the coming year as demand for emerging-market assets spurs revenue.

"Global institutions of developed markets are currently retrenching from their frontier and emerging-market bases, increasing the opportunity that we have in front of us today," Arqaam chief executive Riad Meliti said. Arqaam is exploring both acquisitions and "organic" growth, he said.

Arqaam is among Arabian Gulf investment banks that are hiring after Europe's debt crisis led banks including Credit Suisse, Nomura Holdings and Morgan Stanley to trim their regional presence. Trading value in emerging-market shares has risen in 2013 as economic growth that's more than six times higher than developed nations spurs corporate earnings.

The company, which expects to this year "significantly" increase assets under management from US$175 million, has boosted staff 28-fold to 110 since it started operations five years ago, Mr Meliti said. Arqaam will add headcount in Dubai, Cairo, Tripoli and Beirut, after posting a compounded annual growth rate of 35 per cent since inception, a level of momentum it expects to sustain, he said.

"Our macro vision is global in terms of what's happening with the shift in focus from developed to emerging and frontier," Mr Meliti said. "Anything in between is just turbulence, because we know the trajectory in the long term."

A number of Gulf banks have pursued acquisitions in the North Africa in the past year to gain access to more- populous nations such as Egypt as the countries undergo a political transition following so-called Arab Spring uprisings. Arqaam bought El Rashad Securities Brokerage in Cairo in January last year, just as momentum was building on the benchmark EGX 30 Index, whose 2012 rally of 51 per cent was the world's second-biggest among 93 gauges tracked by Bloomberg.

"It was a critical market for us to have a presence on the ground in to produce research and add value to regional and international clientele to invest in the market," Mr Meliti said.

Nine months later, it announced the acquisition of Al Rashad Finance and Management Advisory in Libya, where market access will accelerate as the nation pursues a democratic transition, according to Mr Meliti.

 

* Bloomberg News