Gulf Finance House to target agriculture sector

28 August 2008
Gulf Finance House (GFH) has started discussions with a number of governments about land concession agreements for the development of agriculture projects to promote Middle East food security.

Talks with the governments of Sudan, Thailand, Malaysia, Mali and Australia are already underway, according to Esam Janahi, chairman of GFH.

Janahi hopes that these governments will grant land to Agricapital, a new investment bank created by GFH with partners Ithmaar Bank and Abu Dhabi Investment House, which it can then use for agriculture.

The move is part of a wider trend in the Gulf for investors to look at promoting food security and combating inflation caused by the rising cost of imported food. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are all looking to invest in farmland overseas.

GFH and its partners hope that by investing in struggling agriculture business and turning them around they can generate an internal rate of return (IRR) of over 15 per cent.

“It is not worth us investing in anything that does not generate an IRR of less that 15-20 per cent,” says Janahi.

Agricapital will be capitalised at $3bn, with paid up capital of $1bn.

The same group of investors have also announced the launch of Infracapital, an investment bank capitalised at $6bn, which will make equity investments in regional infrastructure projects.

GFH has been involved in other projects, including the $3bn Tunis Financial Harbour and $10bn Mumbai Economic Zone, which used cheap land from governments.

Mohammed Hussain, co-chief executive officer of Ithmaar Bank, says that the three partners expect to retain 15 per cent stakes in the two banks, and discussions with new investors are underway to join the ventures.

A third initiative, the Hospitality Investment Fund, has also been launched by the three. The $1bn fund will invest in tourism resorts and hospitality companies around the globe.

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