The Business Year

Manaf A. Alhajeri

CEO, Kuwait Financial Centre — Markaz

Hayder Tawfik

Executive Vice President & Head of Asset Management, Rasameel Investment Company (RIC)

Focusing on local as well as global options allows Kuwaiti investment firms to not only diversify their offerings, but also provide the best opportunities to clients.

What is the scope of the investment solutions you provide?

MANAF A. ALHAJERI Our aspiration has been, and still is, to consolidate our leadership in the asset management and investment banking industry. Markaz is known in Kuwait and the GCC for its skills in several asset classes. We have been serving as gatekeepers of client money, and this position has earned us clients’ trust over the years. Markaz primarily provides investment solutions to our clients in MENA equities; European, US, and GCC real estate; and investment banking. Due to the multiplicity of geopolitical and economic challenges that we are witnessing currently, it is increasingly important not to be reliant upon a single investment instrument or source of funding. Our job is to diversify the risks and provide alternative solutions that make our job not only unique in the market but also widely appreciated.

HAYDER TAWFIK As for the international equity portfolios, apart from offering global equity portfolios we also offer country- and sector-specific equity portfolios. We have recently added investment themes to our collections. One investment theme success has been electric cars. Some clients ask for a tailor-made equity portfolio as part of their investment diversification or a preference to a specific sector or country. Most of our equity portfolios are managed on a discretionary basis and based on the highest ethical standards. These are targeted at our sophisticated clients. As for our international real estate investments, we source investment opportunities from international markets. These deals meet our strict investment criteria and at the same time deliver good returns for our clients. Our focus is on the US, the UK, and Germany as these markets offer the best investment opportunities.

In which sectors of the economy do you see major investment opportunities?

MAA Kuwait is not necessarily a place that will continue to be a retailers’ paradise forever. We have other needs, such as in infrastructure, water desalination, electricity, and health services. Kuwait is in the process of building its own capacity, and our international partners can help by ensuring a presence and being part of the national fabric. They can help us by developing more intelligent and sustainable projects that are well defined and crafted by both the private and public sector. I am bullish on financial services as there is a great deal of room for them to grow. There is much talk about fintech, though this can mean many things. We are not interested in cryptocurrencies; however, cybersecurity is an interesting domain for investments.

HT The Kuwaiti economy should do better than its neighbors in the region. The recent rebound in oil price should help economic activity to pick up going into 2018. However, the reliance on oil as the main source of revenue is not sustainable in the long run. One area to start with is to reduce or eliminate its spending on subsidies for the local population. Another way is to diversify the economy and bolster the private sector. We expect the economy to grow around the 2%. We see great investment opportunities in the sectors that rely heavily on consumer spending, though these sectors are not well presented in the stock market. Moreover, we expect to see consolidation in the health and education sectors.
What is your outlook for 2018?

MAA I am optimistic for a number of reasons. We have succeeded in gaining the trust of the marketplace, which is extremely important. Kuwait is in a great fiscal condition, has a strong constitution, and has freedom of speech. This will give investors faith and confidence to work with institutions such as Markaz. Realistically, one has to watch the geopolitical risk in the region, though we are reaching a new equilibrium.

HT The status quo will be maintained into the next few years. Global economic activity will continue to grow without igniting inflationary pressure that might alarm central banks. Low interest rates, manageable inflation rates, plus steady economic growth is here to stay, and this can only be positive for investors. The solid investment returns that we have seen in the past few years should continue into 2018.



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