Jashanmal scouts for acquisitions

Not looking for an IPO or any kind of capital infusion, says Tony

UAE-based wholesaler and retailer of luxury fashion brands such as Porsche Design, Calvin Klein, Salvatore Ferragamo and now LK Bennett is on the lookout for acquisitions and joint ventures within the region to grow by between 15 and 20 per cent every year despite the ongoing global economic slowdown, one of its senior-most officials has said.

“Yes, we are looking for acquisitions, and we have let the word out that we are indeed looking for joint ventures and acquisitions,” Tony Jashanmal, Group Director, Jashanmal National Company, told 'Emirates24|7'. 

Jashanmal Group, which was founded in Basra (Iraq) in 1919, is a veteran retailer in the Middle East and eyeing expansion within the region and beyond in the coming years.

“We’re targeting the Middle East, primarily the GCC countries, India, and other Arab countries such as Jordan, Syria and Iraq [for expansion],” Jashanmal said. “We always dream about Iraq – that’s where we started and we hope to one day go back to our roots,” he said.

He added that the group was happy with its capital position, and was not looking for any additional source of funding for making those acquisitions or to fund the group’s expansion plans. “No, we do not have any plans for an IPO,” he told this website, adding that the group doesn’t need any capital infusions. “We have expansion plans, and we can keep to it with our own financial strength,” he said.

The group is eyeing a growth of up to 20 per cent per annum in the future, he said. “Let’s put it this way – we grow between 15 and 20 per cent every year. That’s what we think we can do in the future as well.” 

The company has a network of more than 100 retail stores including department stores, bookshops and fashion and footwear brands across the region. The Jashanmal Group is active across the Gulf states and India. “The key markets we operate in continue to be drivers of growth and we see the present as a time of opportunity to introduce leading global brands into dynamic local markets by leveraging our core competencies, specialized infrastructure, deep experience and financial strength.”

Last week, the group launched LK Bennett, a woman’s clothing and footwear brand based out of UK, in Dubai’s Mirdif City Centre, and has plans to launch another five international brands by early next year. Jashanmal will be re-launching Bally, the Swiss shoe brand in the UAE with a new store, also to be located in the Mirdif City Centre while deals for four other US retail brands to open stores across the UAE early next year are also in pipeline. 

The group is bullish on the UAE’s future in global retail, especially with the kind of infrastructure offered by Dubai. “As Dubai has expanded, with its many entertainment facilities and its trait as a family place with good weather for seven to eight months a year, many GCC residents prefer to travel to Dubai during their holidays,” Tony said, maintaining that growth in UAE tourist numbers has continued unabated despite the global slowdown. 

“We have two different kinds of customers – Gulf nationals; and residents and tourists. We have been witnessing an increasing number of GCC family tourists coming down to the UAE, particularly to Dubai, and that was happening even before the Arab Spring,” he said.

“Moreover, as many European countries do not provide [tourist] visas to maids accompanying Gulf residents, many families that are dependent on maids avoid going there, and Dubai is their chosen destination,” he added.

While the numbers may not be going down, Jashanmal says that the customer profile is evolving, with 2011 seeing more Asian customers. “I was at a 5-star facility last week, and there were at least 150 Chinese tourists having dinner over there,” he said, offering anecdotal evidence. 

“In the first two months of this year, almost 30 per cent of customers of our luxury business were Chinese,” he said, backing it up with factual evidence. "It's almost impossible to book a hotel room in Dubai today – despite the fact that there have been an additional 10,000 rooms in the emirate this year," he said. 

“Our customer profile has been changing over the years – while Gulf nationals and tourists from surrounding countries (Iran, India, Pakistan, etc.) were always there, along with Russian expats and tourists, now we also have the Chinese,” he said.

“The market hasn’t decreased though – customer profile varies, but the overall market has constantly grown.”

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