Marka acquires restaurant chain Reem Al Bawadi

Has acquired the home-grown brand serving Middle Eastern food for Dh315 million, it said in an announcement on Dubai Financial Market

The Reem Al Bawadi restaurant and cafe along Marina Walk in Dubai.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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The Dubai-listed retailer Marka has purchased the restaurant chain Reem Al Bawadi as it targets the fast-growing food and beverages sector.

Marka has taken full ownership of the home-grown brand serving Middle Eastern cuisine for Dh315 million.

A Marka spokeswoman said it expects to open two company-owned outlets this year, one each in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and three franchise outlets in Al Ain, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

The 14-year-old Reem Al Bawadi owns and operates four outlets in Dubai. It also has three franchised outlets, in Dubai, Jeddah and Karachi.

This month, Marka expects to open a casual dining restaurant with the Michelin-starred chef, Heinz Beck, called Taste of Italy by Heinz Beck. Also on the cards is a Uefa Champions League Experience concept store that will include casual dining at Yas Mall next month.

Marka’s latest acquisition is among a host of announcements this year in the food services sector. The turnover for the overall UAE food service sector is expected to rise 7.7 per cent to US$9.85 billion this year compared with $9.14bn last year, according to the consultancy Euromonitor International.

“Rising disposable income has pushed the eating out trend, with consumer food service outlets remaining full for most of the year,” Euromonitor wrote in January. “This trend has had a particularly positive effect on fine dining and more premium restaurants as consumers traded up to full-service restaurants.”

The home-grown Japanese restaurant Chez Sushi and the developer Emaar expect to open a fourth outlet in The Village at Arabian Ranches this weekend.

By 2020, PizzaExpress, owned by the Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, expects to double its presence in the UAE from its current seven outlets.

In February, the German e-commerce company Rocket Internet acquired the Kuwait-based online food delivery services provider Talabat for €150m (Dh628.5m). Talabat has a presence in Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.

Another online food delivery player, Foodpanda, in which Rocket Internet has an investment, acquired UAE-based for an undisclosed amount.

The founder and chief executive of Reem Al Bawadi, Ayman Abdel Jaber, will join Marka in an advisory capacity, said Khaled Al Muhairy, the vice chairman and managing director at Marka.

The sale was coordinated by the Canadian advisory firm PineTree Capital, an adviser to Reem Al Bawadi.

Marka, which became the first company in the UAE to issue a greenfield initial public offering, reported a loss of Dh8.3m in the first quarter. It expects to enter profitability next year.

In April, it bought a 60 per cent stake in the Dubai-based children’s entertainment zones Cheeky Monkeys Playland and Sweet Surprises for Dh30m.

Marka’s stock yesterday remained flat at Dh1.22 after dipping midday. It was introduced at Dh1 in September.

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