Bahraini investment bank Gulf Finance House Chairman Esam Janahi speaks at a media briefing in Manama August 27, 2008. A Gulf Arab consortium aims to set up three Islamic financial firms with total starting capital of $2.8 billion and authorisation to raise up to $10 billion to invest in infrastructure, agriculture and the hospitality industry. Project leader Gulf Finance House said it would launch an investment bank called InfraCapital to tap an expected $545 billion in infrastructure projects in the world's biggest oil-exporting region. Bahrain's Ithmaar Bank and Abu Dhabi Investment House would also take part in the venture. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed (BAHRAIN) *** Local Caption ***  BAH04D_GULF-INFRAST_0827_11.JPG
Bahraini investment bank Gulf Finance House Chairman Esam Janahi speaks at a media briefing in Manama.

Run of losses continues at Gulf Finance House

Bahrain's Gulf Finance House (GFH) yesterday posted its seventh straight quarterly loss, ending the April-June period about US$40 million (Dh146.9m) deeper in the red. The second-quarter loss was smaller than the $54.4m loss recorded in the same period last year. But it took the cumulative loss to $786.6m since the final quarter of 2008.

GFH's business virtually ground to a halt when the financial crisis hit the region. Many of its competitors in Bahrain and Kuwait - Global Investment House (GIH) and The Investment Dar among them - suffered a similar fate. GFH was caught with exposures to huge industrial property projects in India, Jordan, Bahrain and Morocco and with a funding model that relied on short-term and medium-term debt. When world credit markets froze and investor appetite for Gulf corporate debt dwindled, the company found itself in a liquidity crisis.

Ted Pretty, an Australian with expertise in reorganisations, was brought in to turn things around. Mr Pretty, now the chief executive of GFH, is leading a drive to restructure and reduce debts and phase in a new business model under which the company plans to seed Islamic financial institutions across the Middle East. "On all counts, we are making real progress and continue to do so," Mr Pretty said yesterday. "Like every global investment bank, GFH has had to review its business model, adjust its liquidity profile and reassess its investment projects. GFH's recovery plan and new strategy will position a stronger GFH to capture the potential value of Islamic finance across the region and beyond for the benefit of investors, shareholders and customers."

GFH is trying to deal with debts before it embarks fully on its new strategy. The company began to address the issue this year when it reached an agreement with bankers to repay two thirds of a $300m loan that came due in February. The remaining $100m was supposed to be repaid this month, but the company received a repayment extension of up to three years. GFH also reached an agreement with bankers to extend repayment of another $100m of debt.

The company plans to raise cash for debt payments by selling assets and cutting expenses. It has already pared its staff, and Mr Pretty said earlier this year he hoped to raise $250m from asset sales. The sale of its 49.9 per cent stake in Bahrain Financial Harbour, a collection of office towers in the centre of Manama, was completed this week. Raising more capital may also be on the cards for GFH as it tries to put itself on a firmer financial footing, executives have said.

"Our half-year results demonstrate the progress GFH has made in taking good steps in the implementation its recovery plan," said Esam Janahi, the company's chairman. "Our focus now will be on strengthening the capital structure of GFH and working towards our new business model." GFH was one of the hardest-hit of the region's financial companies during the global financial crisis. Also badly affected were the Kuwaiti firms GIH, which entered into a restructuring arrangement last year covering $1.7 billion of debt, and The Investment Dar, which is in the middle of a $3.5bn restructuring.

All of those companies have tried to sell assets, reduce debt and refocus on fee-generating businesses. GFH said yesterday the book value of its assets fell to $1.4bn at the end of June from $2.7bn at the same point last year. It also reduced overall debt from $625.5m at the end of last year to $412m at the end of June. GFH is listed in Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait and London. Trading in its shares has been suspended in each location since it failed to report financial results by Sunday's deadline.

Meydan race card

6.30pm: Maiden; Dh165,000; (Dirt) 1,200m
7.05pm: Handicap; Dh170,000; (D) 1,200m​​​​​​​
7.40pm: Maiden; Dh165,000; (D) 1,900m​​​​​​​
8.15pm: Handicap; Dh185,000; (D) 2,000m​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
8.50pm: Handicap; Dh185,000; (D) 1,600m​​​​​​​
9.25pm: Handicap; Dh165,000; (D) 2,000m

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Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


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Dubai World Cup Carnival Card:

6.30pm: Handicap US$135,000 (Turf) 1,200m
7.05pm: Handicap $135,000 (Dirt) 1,200m​​​​​​​
7.40pm: Zabeel Turf Listed $175,000 (T) 2,000m​​​​​​​
8.15pm: Cape Verdi Group Two $250,000 (T) 1,600m​​​​​​​
8.50pm: Handicap $135,000 (D) 1,600m​​​​​​​
9.25pm: Handicap $175,000 (T) 1,600m

Rajasthan Royals 153-5 (17.5 ov)
Delhi Daredevils 60-4 (6 ov)

Rajasthan won by 10 runs (D/L method)

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Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

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Company name: Twig Solutions (with trade name Twig)
Started: 2021
Founders: Chafic Idriss, Karam El Dik and Rayan Antonios
Based: UAE
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It's up to you to go green

Nils El Accad, chief executive and owner of Organic Foods and Café, says going green is about “lifestyle and attitude” rather than a “money change”; people need to plan ahead to fill water bottles in advance and take their own bags to the supermarket, he says.

“People always want someone else to do the work; it doesn’t work like that,” he adds. “The first step: you have to consciously make that decision and change.”

When he gets a takeaway, says Mr El Accad, he takes his own glass jars instead of accepting disposable aluminium containers, paper napkins and plastic tubs, cutlery and bags from restaurants.

He also plants his own crops and herbs at home and at the Sheikh Zayed store, from basil and rosemary to beans, squashes and papayas. “If you’re going to water anything, better it be tomatoes and cucumbers, something edible, than grass,” he says.

“All this throwaway plastic - cups, bottles, forks - has to go first,” says Mr El Accad, who has banned all disposable straws, whether plastic or even paper, from the café chain.

One of the latest changes he has implemented at his stores is to offer refills of liquid laundry detergent, to save plastic. The two brands Organic Foods stocks, Organic Larder and Sonnett, are both “triple-certified - you could eat the product”.  

The Organic Larder detergent will soon be delivered in 200-litre metal oil drums before being decanted into 20-litre containers in-store.

Customers can refill their bottles at least 30 times before they start to degrade, he says. Organic Larder costs Dh35.75 for one litre and Dh62 for 2.75 litres and refills will cost 15 to 20 per cent less, Mr El Accad says.

But while there are savings to be had, going green tends to come with upfront costs and extra work and planning. Are we ready to refill bottles rather than throw them away? “You have to change,” says Mr El Accad. “I can only make it available.”


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