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22 April 2024

Tatweer to replicate healthcare city abroad

By Shweta Jain




Tatweer plans to replicate the model of Dubai Healthcare City outside the region as well as within the region, according to its acting chief executive officer.

“Some of the countries we plan to replicate the healthcare city model are in Asia, North Africa and the Far East. We are not particularly talking to people in these countries but these are some of the options we will consider,” Ahmad Sharaf, Tatweer’s acting CEO (pictured above), told Emirates Business on the sidelines of a conference.

Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), a Dh40-billion development, which is an integrated healthcare free zone and a member of Tatweer, yesterday launched the Dh2.1 billion University Hospital as part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre, which is estimated at a total value of Dh4bn.

The University Hospital will open its doors to patients in 2011, while the building work on the 400-bed, 1.4 million square foot hospital campus commenced in June 2007.

“Replicating the DHCC model is an exciting opportunity for us not only within the region but also in the surrounding countries because of the success that we have had with the healthcare city in Dubai,” said Sharaf. “The aim is to replicate this model in some of the neighbouring countries and even in nations that are quite far away from us.”

Sharaf added Tatweer has not really started any negotiations along those lines yet.

“But we do have secured options in many countries to develop a healthcare city or some form of it basically in some parts of the world,” he added.

When asked if other models would also be branded Dubai Healthcare City, Sharaf said: “What it would look like eventually and whether or not we would be branding them as Dubai Healthcare City, is something yet to be determined.”

“We have not developed a concept at this point that is ready for detailed negotiations. This year we will only start work on the idea,” he added.

Meanwhile, the combined incremental demand for healthcare, in dollar terms, in five Asian countries – China, India, Japan, Korea and Singapore – could exceed the United States by 2015, led by rising income, increased medical tourism and ageing population in some of these countries, according to investment bank Credit Suisse.

For instance, India’s healthcare expenditure alone was $35 billion (Dh128bn) in 2004 (equivalent to 5.2 per cent of India’s gross domestic product), and had grown at 15 per cent, on a compounded basis, in the previous 10 years, as per Credit Suisse estimates.

Also, a joint study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and McKinsey estimated Indian medical tourism at $350m in 2006, with the potential to grow into a $2bn industry by 2012. Credit Suisse estimates that medical tourism in India is growing at about 25 to 30 per cent annually.

When asked how the University Hospital would impact medical tourism in the UAE, Dr Muhadditha Al Hashimi, CEO of DHCC, said: “This development would boost medical tourism by at least 20 per cent, which means we would be able to attract 20 per cent more patients from countries in the four-hour flying radius of Dubai.”

Q&A: Ahmad Sharaf, acting CEO of Tatweer


What kind of investments is Tatweer planning to make in the coming future?

With the launch of Dh2.1 billion University Hospital as part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Academic Medical Centre in Dubai Healthcare City, Tatweer has made its single largest investment in the healthcare sector.

Most of our major investments are coming up in the leisure and entertainment sectors, which means more investment within the Dubailand development. I cannot reveal the scale of investments because these projects are still being developed and will be launched in due course. These include theme parks, office complexes and residential complexes and so on. Beyond that, we have a broad portfolio of companies – extending from real estate all the way into the leisure and entertainment content business. So many of these will start coming into the foray between 2008 and 2009.

What is your current investment portfolio and how do you seek to expand it?

Tatweer’s existing portfolio consists of healthcare; financial services (including the Dubai Mercantile Exchange); media and entertainment (including Universal Studios, Bawadi, Dubailand, Tiger Woods, Global Village and a few others that are being launched gradually). On the other hand, we have investments in property sector and Dubai Industrial City. We will be expanding our portfolio, not so much to get outside of these areas, which are our core competencies, but to complement them.

What is the total size (in value terms) of Tatweer’s portfolio?

I cannot give numbers as we are a private company.

Any plans to go public? Or any plans to sell bonds?

No plans to go for a public listing. As for selling Islamic bonds or sukuk, there maybe a dialogue at a later stage, but for now there is absolutely no need for it. We are completely self-financed.

At what rate is Tatweer growing? What are the projections for the next few years?

We are able to achieve an average growth rate of 30-40 per cent. I would expect that pace to continue for at least next three to five years.

Will taking the Dubai Healthcare City brand to neighbouring countries not defeat the whole idea of medical tourism?

No. It depends on the offering. We want to bring to the table a model wherein public and private sectors work together. And that is what we would call making a useful investment.

What are some of the challenges you foresee for Tatweer?

Human capital is the biggest one. And that means getting the right people on board, which we need to establish in order to go international. So, we are always looking for talent.