Ithmar Capital boss becomes NMC Health chairman after it acquires 9% stake

Faisal Belhoul says troubled healthcare operator has some ‘outstanding assets and people’

An emergency department sign sits on display outside the NMC Royal Hospital, operated by NMC Health Plc, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, March 1, 2020. Troubled NMC Health Plc, the largest private health-care provider in the United Arab Emirates, asked lenders for an informal standstill on its debt as Abu Dhabi weighs an injection of capital to safeguard the emirate’s reputation among global investors. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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NMC Health said its non-executive chairman, Mark Tompkins, stepped down from the board with “immediate effect”.

It has appointed Ithmar Capital’s managing partner, Faisal Belhoul, executive chairman after the private equity company based in Dubai took a 9 per cent stake in NMC.

Mr Tompkins had been joint non-executive chairman of NMC Health since 2012 alongside the company’s founder, BR Shetty.

Mr Shetty stepped down from his position as joint non-executive chairman of the struggling company last month after disclosures about its governance.

“The board confirms that following a period of ill health over the last few weeks, which has prevented him from participation in board activities, Mr HJ Mark Tompkins has left the board and ceased to be chairman and a director of the company with immediate effect,” NMC Health said after markets closed on Thursday.

“This decision was taken as a result of the difficult period which NMC has faced and a desire of the remaining board members to focus on the challenges ahead for the company."

The board said the appointment of Mr Belhoul as executive chairman based in the UAE was appropriate given the challenging period the company faced.

It said he would lead as the company "reviews previous financial irregularities; discusses its debt position with its lenders; focuses on preserving value for its stakeholders; and continues to deliver outstanding levels of care to patients”.

Regulatory filings earlier on Thursday showed Ithmar Capital, which has investments in other healthcare businesses in the country, secured a 9 per cent stake in NMC Health.

They showed it bought stakes from companies owned by former executive vice chairman Khaleefa Al Muhairi and from Saeed Al Qubaisi.

NMC’s board said it was “satisfied that Ithmar Capital's holding in NMC and Mr Belhoul's other hospital interests do not present a conflict of interest with his appointment as executive chairman”.

NMC Health has reported previously undisclosed problems since the publication of a report from activist investor Muddy Waters Research in December.

The US company claimed NMC had inflated cash balances, overpaid for its assets and understated its debt.

The healthcare company initially denied the claims and in January appointed Freeh Group International Solutions, a corporate investigations company led by former FBI director Louis Freeh, as an independent body to look into the allegations.

Since then the company has reported that three of its significant shareholders, Mr Shetty, Mr Al Muhairi and Mr Al Qubaisi, had incorrectly stated the size of their shareholdings.

The company said its debt was much higher, at $6.6 billion (Dh24.24bn), than the $5bn declared this month and the $2.1bn declared in its last filed accounts.

It said a review committee had discovered evidence of "suspected fraudulent behaviour".

Since the revelations began, the company’s chief executive, chief financial officer and a former member of its treasury staff have left the company.

Mr Belhoul is a founder of healthcare and education investment company Amanat Holdings, which is listed on the Dubai Financial Market.

He has previously served as a board member of Al Noor Hospitals and led its listing on the London Stock Exchange in June 2013.

Al Noor Hospitals was later acquired by South African healthcare group Mediclinic.
"I recognise the challenges faced by NMC at the moment, but also see the underlying value of a business with its place at the heart of the infrastructure of the GCC," Mr Belhoul said.

“NMC has some outstanding assets and people working to provide the highest standards of care.

"My role will be to work with them and to focus on the governance of the business to enable it to deliver value to its stakeholders."