Thomas van Vliet, the chief executive of Paramount Hotels and Resorts, says the group hopes to sign its first deal soon. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Thomas van Vliet, the chief executive of Paramount Hotels and Resorts, says the group hopes to sign its first deal soon. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Luxury hotel brand Paramount puts Dubai in the picture



A new luxury hotel brand is hoping to bring the glamour and escapism of Hollywood to the hospitality industry.

The company, Paramount Hotels and Resorts, was launched last week at the Arabian Travel Market event in Dubai. Based in emirate, the fledgling company emerged from a long-term agreement with the licensing division of Paramount Pictures.

As one of the oldest and highest-grossing movie studios, films in Paramount's extensive portfolio include classic hit movies such as The Godfather and Saturday Night Fever to more recent blockbusters such as Transformers.

"There will be a combination of the entertainment, the technology and the creativity that comes from Paramount," says Thomas van Vliet, the chief executive of Paramount Hotels and Resorts. "They have a 100-year history in the film industry. We are going to bring elements of the Paramount theme into our hotels and resorts.

"We add to that elements of California lifestyle and of course the glamour of Hollywood. Some people ask me if we're looking to develop hotels like Planet Hollywood and Hard Rock hotels. The answer is 'no'. This is not the direction that we're going in. It's more subtle. It's more about luxury lifestyle," he adds. The hotel management company now has the challenge of finding investors and developers to build the hotels.

"We are talking to investors and developers at this moment in Brazil, in the Caribbean, in the UK, in Russia, in Oman, in Qatar, in Dubai and in South Africa and Indonesia," says Mr van Vliet.

The hotel group hopes to sign its first agreement within the next few months. "The environment of hotels is competitive. But I'm convinced that the ones with the unique elements and a lot of unique selling points will be successful," he says. "It's like in any business. If you can't differentiate yourselves from the other ones, it's hard. Yes, we will need to prove ourselves as a hotel company, but I have no problem with that."

Rates at the hotels are likely to range between US$250 (Dh918.30) an $350 a night, Mr van Vliet says.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Switch Foods
Started: 2022
Founder: Edward Hamod
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Plant-based meat production
Number of employees: 34
Funding: $6.5 million
Funding round: Seed
Investors: Based in US and across Middle East

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Director: James Wan

Starring: Jason Mamoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II 

Rating: 2/5

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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