MEED: Gulf One is described as the region’s first truly independent investment bank. What is it that gives it thatindependence?

Nahed Taher: The strategy is to have maximum efficiency by being a management bank, not a shareholder bank, and to have an elected board that can give the ultimate professional added value to the bank.

Moreover, Gulf One is not affiliated with a multibank holding company or an international bank.

Gulf One shareholders were specifically selected to be either industrial or financial institutional investors, or selective industrial individuals away from just high-net worth family business owners. Shareholders are diversified from all GCC countries and from East Asia.

Why has the bank chosen to focus on large energy and infrastructure developments?

Gulf One is a knowledge–based infrastructure bank. The whole idea of the bank was founded on the belief that there is a huge gap in financing infrastructure projects in the region on both equity and debt sides, in terms of knowledge, availability of liquidity and proper financial instruments. The infrastructure and industrial sectors are the key drivers for sustainable economic growth in the Gulf.

The recent privatisation and public-private initiatives by GCC governments have come as excellent timing for our bank operations.

According to our estimates, the total awarded infrastructure and industrial projects in GCC are more than $1.3 trillion, of which almost $400bn is required as equity (on the basis of 70:30 debt-to-equity ratio). In addition, the expected returns due to demand for such projects are extremely lucrative and sustainable, if executed and financed in the right manner.

The current huge gaps in infrastructure services mean the government and private sector need to continue to deliver these projects in the foreseeable future.

How do you view the prospects for investment banking in the Gulf, given the difficult past couple of years?

Many investment banks in the Gulf have suffered in the past couple of years as a result of the global financial crisis, due either to investing in non asset-backed international and local deals, or not being involved in high-level management of such activities. I believe the prospects for investment banking in the Gulf are promising if investment banks take a paradigm shift in their strategies and business activities.

A new business dimension in the Gulf could transform the whole economic perspective for the region.

By focusing on financing fairly valued real asset-backed projects such as those in environmental, industrial, carbon emission, water and aviation sectors, GCC banks can make a contribution to the Gulf economy in terms of much higher income and living standards. 

This focus will attract also intelligent international investments to come to the region and play a vital role in enhancing infrastructure and the GCC economies.

What kinds of strategic collaborations is Gulf One pursuing? 

Gulf One has several collaboration agreements with top international entities. These entities include investment banks, infrastructure, multi-industrial, and consultancy companies depending on the related activities that Gulf One is working on.

Public-private initiatives by GCC governments have come as excellent timing for our banking operations

Our sister water company Moya is the first company ever to be listed on the Singapore exchange.

Gulf One had also a very successful partnership and strategic alliance with a German private equity boutique in launching funds for industrial technology companies related to infrastructure activities.

The fund showed outstanding results despite the current crises. We also have record profits in our investments either alone or jointly with our international partners in oil and gas, health and aviation sectors and carbon emissions.