x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Paper losses' belie profitable operations

On the surface, a Dh4.2 billion loss represents a bad year for Mubadala Development. But if you dig into the underlying businesses, the performance of the strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government was not all bad.

In February last year, Mubadala took full ownership of Advanced Technology Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi Government's main technology vehicle and the parent company of Globalfoundries, a chip maker. Above, a Globalfoundries fabrication facility in Dresden.
In February last year, Mubadala took full ownership of Advanced Technology Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi Government's main technology vehicle and the parent company of Globalfoundries, a chip maker. Above, a Globalfoundries fabrication facility in Dresden.

On the surface, a Dh4.2 billion (US$1.14bn) loss represents a bad year for Mubadala Development.

But if you dig into the underlying businesses, the performance of the strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government offered some bright spots.

The red ink were "paper losses" caused by a decline in the value of investments in Mubadala's portfolio, but the operations of its chosen business segments - ranging from oil and gas to healthcare and semiconductors - were surprisingly resilient in a challenging year for the global economy.

Income from operations was Dh1.2bn last year, versus a Dh2.6bn profit the year before. Waleed Al Muhairi, the chief operating officer at Mubadala, had projected an even steeper decline due to the challenging economic backdrop.

"The Dh1.2bn, all things considered, I thought was pretty good," he said.

With a financial crisis raging in many parts of the world, Mubadala had drawn up a "conservative" budget for its diversified business units for last year.

But its oil and gas unit, which includes its 51 per cent majority shareholding in Dolphin Energy, did better than anticipated, said Mr Al Muhairi.

Dolphin Energy reached a milestone with the cumulative production of its 3-trillionth cubic foot of natural gas in December. In South East Asia, Dolphin Energy's Jasmine field exceeded annual production targets, producing its 40-millionth barrel of oil.

In recent years, Mubadala has focused on diversifying its business away from oil and gas into new industries such as semiconductors and aluminium.

The move is designed to play to Abu Dhabi's strengths, but has not come without risks. In February last year, Mubadala took full ownership of Advanced Technology Investment Company (Atic), the Abu Dhabi Government's main technology vehicle and the parent company of Globalfoundries, a chip maker.

"Some businesses were less profitable than they were the year before, like Globalfoundries, and some became profitable for the first time," Mr Al Muhairi said.

Emirates Aluminium (Emal), an aluminium maker Mubadala built in partnership with Dubai Aluminium, outperformed forecasts, said Mr Al Muhairi.

Emal's enormous smelter near Abu Dhabi's border with Dubai produced its 1-millionth tonne of aluminium in November for the first phase of the project. The second phase, which will expand capacity by another 500,000 tonnes per year, was approved by Emal's board of directors in July. Mubadala hopes to secure financing for the phase two in the second half of this year.

"Any funding is dependent on market conditions," said Carlos Obeid, Mubadala's chief financial officer.

"We are looking at various sources of financing including banks, bonds, export credit agencies."

Three other Mubadala subsidiaries also performed better than were budgeted for last year. Strata, Mubadala's components manufacturing business, became a Tier 1 supplier for aircraft parts to Boeing in November.

Last year also marked its first full year of shipping wing parts to be used on Airbus A330s.

Mubadala's infrastructure unit oversaw the inauguration in September of the new Zayed University campus in Abu Dhabi. In healthcare, an Imperial College London Diabetes Centre was opened in Al Ain to complement an existing facility in Abu Dhabi, which is already running at full capacity.

Some of Mubadala's property portfolio, however, fared less well. Property market conditions remain "challenging", said Mr Al Muhairi.

The firm in December converted Dh2.1bn worth of bonds into shares in Aldar Properties, as the developer struggled with falling property prices and declining market value.

Property market weakness also hit Masdar, a renewable energy company wholly owned by Mubadala. "Masdar, like all those with exposure to real estate, was negatively affected because of its real estate holdings and the rest is moving according to plan," said Mr Al Muhairi.

tarnold@thenational.ae

twitter: Follow our breaking business news and retweet to your followers. Follow us