Amanat looks to trim costs and continue to eye growth opportunities despite headwinds

Owner of Dubai's Middlesex University site says strengthening its balance sheet is a top priority

A photo taken on January 6, 2020 shows the Dubai Financial Market in the Gulf emirate as Gulf bourses were hit by a panicky sell-off amid Iranian vows of retaliation over the US killing of a top general. All seven bourses in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states closed in the red, on the first trading day since the death of powerful military commander Qasem Soleimani. / AFP / Karim SAHIB
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Amanat Holdings, the Dubai-listed firm that invests in healthcare and education businesses, is looking to cut costs as its top management take voluntary pay cuts amid a pandemic-driven economic slowdown, but will continue to look for growth opportunities through its portfolio companies and explore new regional investments.

Strengthening the company's balance sheet is the top priority amid the current uncertainty, which necessitates enhanced efficiencies across the healthcare and education sectors, Amanat said in a statement to the Dubai Financial Market, where its shares trade.

“The crisis has brought on operational and structural challenges and we believe it is prudent to take difficult initiatives through these unprecedented times,” Shamsheer Vayalil, vice chairman and managing director of Amanat, said.

“We believe this will allow us to emerge stronger, more efficient and financially sustainable.”

The company’s senior management team has voluntarily reduced compensation as part of a series of initiatives that are being rolled out, Mr Vayalil said, without specifying how much the company will save through cost cutting initiatives.

“Being able to keep the team together, we are ensuring business continuity, allowing us to concentrate on delivering shareholder value over the short- to medium term,” he said.

Despite the headwinds, the company will continue to look for growth opportunities through its portfolio companies and will explore new regional investments, it said. Existing investments include Middlesex University Dubai and Abu Dhabi University Holding Company, as well as the International Medical Centre, which owns a 300-bed hospital in Jeddah.

In April, the company said it plans to move its headquarters to Abu Dhabi and list its shares on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

The decision to move the company's headquarters as well as to list on Abu Dhabi bourse is subject to the approval of authorities, including the Securities and Commodities Authority, the Dubai Financial Market and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

Amanat reported a 40 per cent rise in its full-year net profit of Dh60m in 2019 as its income from investments rose and expenses fell.

In March, the company ended discussions to buy a stake in VPS Healthcare Group, founded by Mr Vayalil.