UKTI boosts capacity to aid British firms in MENA

DUBAI — Strategic investments between Britain and the UAE are now being undertaken with a different mindset, believes UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) CEO, Andrew Cahn. "We are seeing more of a partnership relationship rather than just a trading one," he said.

By Lucia Dore (Assistant Editor, Business)

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Published: Fri 18 May 2007, 9:16 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 11:06 PM

Companies are taking more of a "long-term strategic focus and we think we can be part of delivering those objectives," he added.

Cahn also said less restrictive rules regarding foreign ownership in the UAE would likely benefit the UAE. "I would argue that it would benefit the UAE to liberalise (foreign) ownership rules," he said. Conversely, he would like also like to see more Middle East companies listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The Alternative Investment Market (AIM), established to provide young and growing businesses with a means of raising capital and experiencing a public market in their securities, "is a good way of starting the listing process", he said.

The introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), the regulatory compliance measures brought in to guard against malpractice in corporate America, "has been of huge benefit to us", said Cahn. But now that the New York Stock Exchange has started to fight back, the LSE is marketing itself more aggressively, he said.

Cahn, who was appointed to his post in March, was speaking prior to officially opening Dubai as the specialist advisory trading hub for British companies doing business in the Middle East and North Africa. He said the new trading hub team would provide UK companies with a "one-stop-shop" of resources, advice and support to help them develop and exploit the export potential of their businesses in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

UK exports to the Middle East were worth more than 10 billion pounds (Dh72.5 billion) in 2006 with exports to countries like Bahrain and Qatar up by 45 per cent and nearly 35 per cent respectively. "The UK now exports more products and services to Saudi Arabia than the whole of Latin America," said Cahn.

Accurate statistics detailing the volume of inward investment flows to Britain are not available however. These flows "are notoriously difficult to predict," he said. The figures depend on whether you measure the number of projects undertaken, financial flows, stocks or jobs generated. Nonetheless, there is still "substantial information from the region to show that investment flows to the UK are continuing to grow", he said, adding that he would like to see more transactions like DP World's acquisition of British port operator, P&O. "I would like to see more P&O-type transactions," he said.

UKTI launched its new "Gulf Strategy" late last year, which highlighted three high growth markets: Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. "We look on the whole of the Gulf as a high growth market but will be directing our efforts into these three emerging economies," said Cahn. The key sectors on which British businesses are focusing are education and training, construction, oil and gas, life sciences and tourism, said Cahn.

The announcement of the new trading hub team was made at the "Britain in the Region" event. This offers British companies with a presence in the Middle East to meet with trade and investment officers from 15 countries to learn more about opportunities in the MENA region.

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