Abdullahs roll in recovery for Damas

The three Abdullah brothers are back at the firm - in charge of recovering money owed to the company.

Dubai, UAE - April 27, 2009 - Anan Fakhreddin, Managing Director of World Gold Council (2nd from right) listens to speakers at the DMCC gold convention 2008 press brieÞng at the Atlantis hotel. (Nicole Hill / The National) *** Local Caption ***  NH Gold01.jpgNH Gold01.jpg

The three Abdullah brothers, whose family founded Damas jewellers and were held responsible for unauthorised transactions including about 50 property deals and two tonnes of gold borrowed from the company, are back at the firm - in charge of recovering money owed to the company.

The brothers were banned from executive roles at any Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) company for between five and 10 years. But last month, the brothers were appointed as senior advisers at Damas. Anan Fakhreddin, the jeweller's chief executive, who was appointed to lead the company in May, said the Abdullahs were helping to recover receivables. "Not everything was well documented, which was very normal in the jewellery business. Most of the business was done on the basis of a handshake and based on the personal relationship between the management and the business partners ? One of the three brothers was in charge of that file. Without his assistance, any progress on the recoveries front would have been impossible."

Their expertise in jewellery and Damas's past designs is also being utilised, he said. "All that wealth of knowledge cannot be just ignored because of all of this." The brothers can make suggestions, which are subject to approval, Mr Fakhreddin said. "They come up with recommendations, it gets evaluated in the proper channels, and action is only taken at the executive level within Damas structure itself."

In October last year, Damas's former chief executive, Tawhid Abdullah, stepped down from his post after disclosing unauthorised transactions worth about US$165 million (Dh606m), including the property deals and two tonnes of gold, which weighed heavily on the jeweller's books. The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) imposed record fines against Damas and Mr Abdullah and his two brothers, Tawfique and Tamjid.

Mr Fakhreddin said the company was focused on recovering receivables from its business partners, as well as the money owed by its founders. "We have a sizeable amount of money floating in the market and we are making every effort on the recoveries front to recover every dime owed." Mr Fakhreddin said Damas also expected to finalise its restructuring deal with its lenders by the end of September. He said the deal to restructure Dh3.2 billion in debt that was expected to be reached last month was delayed. "We are more or less done with the banks; it is the lawyers which are finalising the legal documents, securing the needed approvals from the authorities and from the regulator."

Damas had signed a standstill agreement with the majority of its bank lenders in March. Damas is in the process of securing an extension of this standstill until the end of September in order to have more time to finalise the debt restructuring deal, Mr Fakhreddin said. The extension would probably be secured by the end of next week, he said. The completion of the deal would be the latest step in restructuring the region's largest gold and jewellery retailer.

Damas is proceeding with a push into India through a joint venture with the Indian jeweller Gitanjali, Mr Fakhreddin said. Under this venture, which was approved last year, as many as 100 stores under the Damas name are planned to open over three years. aligaya@thenational.ae