Abu Dhabi's Khazna to open $250m data centre in Egypt amid global acquisition plan

Philippines 'top of the list' for Asian expansion strategy, CEO says

Khazna Data Centres currently operates 12 data centres across the UAE, with a total planned capacity of 300MW. Leslie Pableo / The National
Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi’s Khazna Data Centres, one of the industry's largest operators in the Middle East, will be expanding in Egypt and is considering acquisitions to boost its portfolio amid a shifting digital landscape, its chief executive said.

The new $250 million Egypt data centre, to be built at Maadi Technology Park in Cairo with an expected capacity of 25 megawatts of IT load, is aimed at addressing the region's underserved markets in terms of data capacity, Hassan Al Naqbi told The National in an interview.

“We realise that to become regional and global, we have to step outside the UAE,” Mr Al Naqbi said.

“It's inevitable … we're looking at emerging markets where we see the shift of data and cloud concentration going into those regions.

“We plan to do organic [growth] or greenfield [investments], but in some cases we might do activities in which we acquire some existing players and try to expand from them.”

Khazna — created when the former Etisalat Group and Abu Dhabi artificial intelligence company G42 merged their data centres in 2021 — is entering the Egyptian market with Cairo-based Benya Group.

“Egypt is sitting in a very good geographical location between Europe and the Middle East, sort of a gateway between East and West. A country like Egypt with a huge population has a lot of potential.”

The company is also in varying levels of discussions with a number of countries, he said.

Khazna is looking into three more markets in Mena — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco — and greenfield investments are being planned with the “right partners”, Mr Al Naqbi said.

For entry into Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, talks are at a “high level” and a specific time frame will be announced once an agreement is finalised, he said.

Middle East countries have become attractive markets for technology investments because of the booming digital landscape in the region.

A number of global technology organisations, including Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, have flocked to the region to set up data centres to support countries in their technological push.

Revenue in the global data centre market is expected to jump about 20 per cent to $410.42 billion by 2027, from an estimated $342.1 billion in 2023, data from Statista shows.

Khazna's expansion in Egypt “will have a substantial impact on attracting investments in high-density operations that support cloud systems and content operators, as well as encouraging major commercial companies to join a top-notch cloud complex”, Ahmed Mekky, chairman and chief executive of Benya Group, said.

The next step for Khazna is expanding in North Africa and parts of Europe, Mr Al Naqbi said.

He said they won't be looking at markets that are already well served, including Central Europe and the US.

In Asia, Khazna is seeking opportunities in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Mr Al Naqbi said the Philippines is on the “top of the list”. He visited Manila recently and had discussions with a number of potential partners in the country that is also deemed underserved.

We plan to do organic [growth] or greenfield [investments], but in some cases we might do activities in which we acquire some existing players and try to expand from them
Hassan Alnaqbi, chief executive of Khazna Data Centres

“The Philippines has a very young generation using data, but they are not well connected from a broadband perspective because of the many islands it has — but at least every individual has at least one or two devices and they're willing to be connected to the internet,” he said.

Khazna currently operates 12 data centres across the UAE, with a total planned capacity of 300MW as the company aims to add another 12 over the next two years.

One of these data centres will be a 30MW flagship facility in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City. Its first phase will come online in July, with a capacity of 15MW, and the second phase is expected to be delivered in September.

Another 21MW data centre is being developed at Dubai Design District, which is scheduled to be operational in October. The remaining capacity will be delivered before the end of 2024, Mr Al Naqbi said.

“We have been growing steadily, and in the last three years we have at least grown three or four times our normal growth for the past years,” he said.

Updated: May 08, 2023, 6:00 AM