Qatar's first big feature film, Clockwise, films in Doha. Directed by Khalifa al Muraikhi, the movie will be released in May as part of the ongoing Doha Arab Culture Capital 2010.
Qatar's first big feature film, Clockwise, films in Doha. Directed by Khalifa al Muraikhi, the movie will be released in May as part of the ongoing Doha Arab Culture Capital 2010.

Film business conference pulls Hollywood chiefs to Doha



DOHA // The idea first came to Raja Sharif last fall, as the Gulf seemed overrun with cinematic glitz and glamour. "I saw that they were doing a lot of film festivals around the region," said the director of international affairs at the Doha-based media firm Alnoor Holdings, citing events in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai. He envisioned a new local event, but not another festival.

"I rang up the guys at the Financial Times I'd dealt with in past," he recalled. "I managed to convince them there was a big part of the movie industry that people didn't focus on." They may not offer the tabloid appeal of Brangelina or the next James Cameron blockbuster, but the legal, financial and business aspects of the film industry are set to have their day in the sun later this month, at the inaugural Business of Film Summit, organised jointly by the Financial Times and Alnoor.

The event will be held March 22-23 in Doha and address the industry's changing international landscape. As the financial downturn has slowed funding from western banks, producers have ventured far and wide for new audiences and funding sources. Hollywood players such as Warner Brothers and Sony have moved into the Indian market. Last year, Disney made The Book of Masters, its first film for a Russian-speaking audience. Last month, Fox Corp snapped up a piece of the Saudi-based Rotana media conglomerate. Here in Doha, Alnoor launched a US$200 million (734.6m) fund to finance and produce Islamic- and family-friendly films.

"This industry is in a state of flux," Mr Sharif said. "Film has had to shift in so many ways to increase capital and liquidity, in part by attracting people from the East and Middle East and allowing those who had ambitions to move into the film world, to do so." The Financial Times Group had similar ambitions. FT has organised business and luxury events for 30 years, but none centred on film. "We're essentially getting our foothold into an industry which we haven't really engaged in the past," said Toufique Khan, FT's Business Development Manager. He had been looking to do events in the Middle East, and the time for a film business conference seemed ripe. "It looked as if there had been a shift in the industry," he said.

Partnering with Alnoor, FT developed the idea and put together the event's programming. Panel discussions will address the globalisation of film, the impact of technology, the role of governments and the budding film business in the Middle East region. Several events will address the changing landscape of the industry in the wake of the financial crisis. Matthew Garrahan, FT's Los Angeles correspondent, will serve as chairman and present opening and closing remarks. The event is open to the public, for just under US$1,000.

Senior executives from Hollywood, Bollywood and Arab production firms are set to speak, including Greg Coote, the CEO and chairman of Dune Entertainment, which helped finance the most financially successful movie of all time, Avatar. Mr Sharif and Alnoor Holdings' CEO Ahmed al Hashemi told him about the summit during a meeting in Los Angeles late last year. "I was immediately taken with the idea and moved my calendar around to accommodate the dates," Mr Coote said via e-mail from a Utah ski resort. Networking at this sort of event is a key part of the business, he explained, but even more important is branching out into new regions.

"Holding it in Qatar is really inspired," Mr Coote added. "The actual box office business in the US is mature, while the world outside of the US is a massive growth area for filmed entertainment, and this applies to the Middle East. By hosting the event in Doha, Alnoor and FT have thrown a spotlight on the region." The Gulf has been polishing its film industry bona fides of late, with major festivals blooming across the region and new film funds such as that of Alnoor. The first big budget Qatari film will hit theatres in May, following the release of several Emirati films.

Still, Mr Sharif believes the global spotlight represents progress only if it leads to profit. Despite all the show, the film industry is a business, just like any other. Before investors can make money they must first stir up interest, get people talking. That, according to its prime mover, is one of the main goals of the summit. "It's a nice way for people to understand the legal, financial, and business issues involved in filmmaking," said Mr Sharif. "We know all about the glitz and glamour, the movie stars, but this will focus on the inner workings of the film world people mostly don't see, maybe create a buzz about the business side of the industry."

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Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Shipping and banking

The sixth sanctions package will also see European insurers banned from covering Russian shipping, more individuals added to the EU's sanctions list and Russia's Sberbank cut off from international payments system Swift.

Apple's Lockdown Mode at a glance

At launch, Lockdown Mode will include the following protections:

Messages: Most attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled

Web browsing: Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode

Apple services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request

Connectivity: Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when an iPhone is locked

Configurations: Configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management while Lockdown Mode is on

Fight card

Bantamweight

Siyovush Gulmamadov (TJK) v Rey Nacionales (PHI)

Lightweight

Alexandru Chitoran (ROM) v Hussein Fakhir Abed (SYR)

Catch 74kg

Tohir Zhuraev (TJK) v Omar Hussein (JOR)

Strawweight (Female)

Weronika Zygmunt (POL) v Seo Ye-dam (KOR)

Featherweight

Kaan Ofli (TUR) v Walid Laidi (ALG)

Lightweight

Leandro Martins (BRA) v Abdulla Al Bousheiri (KUW)

Welterweight

Ahmad Labban (LEB) v Sofiane Benchohra (ALG)

Bantamweight

Jaures Dea (CAM) v Nawras Abzakh (JOR)

Lightweight

Mohammed Yahya (UAE) v Glen Ranillo (PHI)

Lightweight

Alan Omer (GER) v Aidan Aguilera (AUS)

Welterweight

Mounir Lazzez (TUN) Sasha Palatnikov (HKG)

Featherweight title bout

Romando Dy (PHI) v Lee Do-gyeom (KOR)

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Book Details

Three Centuries of Travel Writing by Muslim Women
Editors: Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Daniel Majchrowicz, Sunil Sharma
Publisher: Indiana University Press; 532 pages

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Fire and Fury
By Michael Wolff,
Henry Holt

Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

 Only recruitment companies authorised by the government are permitted as part of Tadbeer, a network of labour ministry-regulated centres.

A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

How to help

Send “thenational” to the following numbers or call the hotline on: 0502955999
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Shubh Mangal Saavdhan
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Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar

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Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

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Job: CEO JCDecaux Middle East

In the role: Since January 2015

Lives: In the UAE

Background: M&A, investment banking

Studied: Corporate finance

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

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Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

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Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

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Name: Rain Management

Year started: 2017

Based: Bahrain

Employees: 100-120

Amount raised: $2.5m from BitMex Ventures and Blockwater. Another $6m raised from MEVP, Coinbase, Vision Ventures, CMT, Jimco and DIFC Fintech Fund

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Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Directed: Smeep Kang
Produced: Soham Rockstar Entertainment; SKE Production
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Jimmy Sheirgill, Sunny Singh, Omkar Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma
Rating: Two out of five stars 

Most polluted cities in the Middle East

1. Baghdad, Iraq
2. Manama, Bahrain
3. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait
5. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
6. Ash Shihaniyah, Qatar
7. Abu Dhabi, UAE
8. Cairo, Egypt
9. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
10. Dubai, UAE

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

MOST POLLUTED COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD

1. Chad
2. Iraq
3. Pakistan
4. Bahrain
5. Bangladesh
6. Burkina Faso
7. Kuwait
8. India
9. Egypt
10. Tajikistan

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report