MAF to continue expansion after revenue grows 8% in 2018, CEO says

The conglomerate grew its assets last year with openings of malls, Carrefour stores and cinemas

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - December 02, 2018: Traditional Emirati dancing performed on stage at MOE. Sunday the 2nd of December 2018 at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Majid Al Futtaim, the Dubai conglomerate behind Ski Dubai and Mall of the Emirates, will continue its expansion in existing and new markets amid brighter economic prospects in the Middle East and other regions, its chief executive said.

The conglomerate, which grew its revenue 8 per cent to Dh34.6 billion last year, plans to expand further in East Africa in 2019 with its Carrefour supermarket franchise. It will also increase its footprint in Saudi Arabia with more cinema openings, and globally in its ski slope business as well as other projects, Alain Bejjani told The National.

This year “will see us deepening our presence in existing markets and opening new markets especially in East Africa for Carrefour,” he said.

MAF is expanding its footprint and diversifying its income through various developments and acquisitions that have helped it become a group with Dh60.4bn in assets. The firm’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose 9 per cent to Dh4.6bn. The privately held company does not publish net profit figures.

The group is still on track to double in size over a five-year period, a target it set in 2015 amid its expansion plans.

“We are working on that [target]... on the top and bottom line,” Mr Bejjani said. “We will get there somewhere around next year or the year after. Our growth plans continue to be quite bold.”

The group, which generates 55 per cent of its revenue from the UAE, would like to grow domestically and internationally.

“You will see growth in our business in the UAE and outside...that of course will lead to a more balanced distribution of revenue and Ebitda,” he said.

MAF, which has a ski slope in Egypt and is building another one in Saudi Arabia, will act as a consultant for the largest indoor ski slope in China being built by Singapore’s KOP. The conglomerate has the option to become potentially an operator or an investor if it chooses, Mr Bejjani said.

“We are open to the possibility of expanding our ski slope business globally and this is something we will be pursuing in the coming year but will be more opportunistic,” he said.

MAF, which operates Carrefour stores in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, has been on a buying spree to enhance its digital offerings as bricks-and-mortar companies compete with a growing number of e-commerce platforms. Online competition includes Amazon-owned and, the $1bn company set up by billionaire businessman Mohamed Alabbar.

MAF, which made an 11th-hour bid in 2017 for Souq but lost to Amazon, bought mobile wallet app Beam last year. It also led a $30 million funding round for e-commerce company Wadi Group that will help finance the expansion of Wadi Grocery, an online delivery platform serving the Saudi grocery market.

The company bought Retail Arabia’s Geant supermarket stores in 2017 for an undisclosed sum and invested in Dubai consumer technology app Fetchr as part of a $41m funding round. MAF also made its foray into Saudi Arabia’s cinema business last year amid plans to have 600 screens in the kingdom by 2023.

Last year the conglomerate unveiled plans for a mixed-use community in Dubai, Tilal Al Ghaf, with an investment value of Dh14bn over the next 10 years.

Mr Bejjani did not rule out launching such developments in Saudi Arabia, but said there are no immediate plans for such a project in the kingdom.