Al-Futtaim launches marine services unit

Al-Futtaim Group, one of the country's largest family conglomerates, will chart new waters with a boat services company as part of its growing operations.

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Al-Futtaim Group, one of the country's largest family conglomerates, will chart new waters with a boat services company as part of its growing operations.

The group yesterday launched Al-Futtaim Marine, a premium boat services and brokerage company, at the Dubai International Boat Show.

"The Al-Futtaim Marine team has vast experience in the boating business in the UAE and the Middle East and we hope to become the UAE's, and ultimately the region's, largest recreational boat and yacht retailer," said Toby Scruby, the general manager for the new company.

The new company, which is to open next week, will offer new and used-yacht brokerage and sales, maintenance and repair services, insurance and sales of new engines and marine component parts.

It will also offer consultancy services to prospective boat buyers and eventually wants to partner a global manufacturer to become an exclusive local dealer.

"I am sure that Al-Futtaim is looking not only at the UAE, but at how the UAE is becoming a yachting hub within the entire Gulf region now, and therefore they think it's an opportune time to offer these kinds of services and products today," said Erwin Bamps, the chief operating officer of Gulf Craft, a yacht and boat manufacturer based in the UAE.

The arrival of the new company is likely to make it easier and potentially more affordable for customers to buy boats, he said.

"When people don't really know how they will own one, register one, insure one, operate and maintain one easily, then the actual purchase is not going to even happen," Mr Bamps said. "I believe that Al-Futtaim is seeing through that, just what we have been noticing over the last few years, that clients are eager to find somebody that is a one-stop shop.

"The recession has made people think a little bit more and instead of being adventurous about the way they spend money, they're a little bit more careful now."

Al-Futtaim Marine comes under the umbrella of Al-Futtaim Automotive, which provides the largest part of the group's revenue, dominating the UAE car market as the distributor of Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Volvo, Chrysler and Dodge vehicles. Al-Futtaim also has interests in retail, property and construction across the Middle East.

"Al-Futtaim Marine is a milestone development in the group's strategy and signifies the beginning of an extremely exciting time for the marina and marine services industry in the region," said Len Hunt, the president of the automotive division.

The Al-Futtaim Marine office will be located facing the 78th berth on Festival Marina, the yachting facility within Dubai Festival City, which is owned and operated by the group.

Al-Futtaim, which was founded more than 70 years ago, has more than 40 companies and 20,000 employees in at least 20 countries.

It has mall projects worth billions of dirhams under construction in Cairo and Doha, and the company recently embarked on a US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion) programme of acquisitions in Saudi Arabia and Asia.