x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dubai company takes Dh1bn holding in Al Noor Medical

Ithmar Capital, a private equity company based in Dubai, has taken a Dh1 billion (US$272.2 million) majority stake in Al Noor Medical Company in Abu Dhabi.

Ithmar Capital, a private equity company based in Dubai, has taken a Dh1 billion (US$272.2 million) majority stake in Al Noor Medical Company in Abu Dhabi. Ithmar's capital injection is designed to fund an expansion of Al Noor through acquisitions, new development, public-private partnerships and strategic equity investments. The idea is to create a regional healthcare services company, said Faisal bin Juma Belhoul, the founder and managing partner of Ithmar, which has more than Dh2bn in assets under management.

"Al Noor is the largest healthcare operator in the country," he said. "We're going to build on that." Al Noor was founded 25 years ago and is a privately-run healthcare company that operates three hospitals, three clinics and 10 pharmacies in Abu Dhabi and treats 1.2 million patientsa year. The Dh1bn stake in Al Noor is the largest Ithmar has made since it was founded in 2005, Mr Belhoul said. Boosted by government spending, the healthcare market in the Gulf is expected to grow fivefold by 2025. Analysts say the GCC healthcare sector was estimated to be valued at between $15bn and $18bn last year.

"From my point of view, building more hospitals is not going to be so sensible," said Helmut Schuehsler, the chief executive of TVM Capital in Munich, a healthcare equity fund that ended a $40m fundraising round in February. "Making an acquisition of an existing one that has patient flow, that has a good reputation and good doctors is probably better than building a new [hospital]," he said. Ithmar has stakes in a variety of what Mr Belhoul calls "recession resilient industries": health care; education; food processing; and oil and gas services. He said investors' support of a healthcare venture of the size of the Al Noor deal sent an important signal because it was one of the first in the region to take place "since the silence of the crisis".

"It's a very important milestone because it reactivates that trust and the fact that these opportunities exist," he said. Al Noor's operational focus will be on the growing and ageing population and a rise in chronic "lifestyle" diseases. In Abu Dhabi, almost a third of Emiratis are overweight, government health statistics show. In the UAE, the figure is about 20 per cent. About 25 per cent of Emirati men and almost 40 per cent of women in the country are classified as obese, which puts a further strain on medical facilities. Treating those patients could cost the nation more than Dh440m a year, according to research from UAE University.

ashah@thenational.ae