The British Business Group for Dubai and Northern Emirates is the largest British business committee in the UAE, GCC and Middle East. Formed in 1987 as a non-profit voluntary organisation to promote United Kingdom business interests in the UAE, it has 1,000 members and conducts around 80 events each year. Mark Beer, Chairman of BBG, spoke to Emirates Business about the group and its role in promoting UK-UAE business ties.
Mark Beer, who is currently serving as chairman and chief executive officer of the British Business Group for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is head of sales and corporate services for Mastercard Worldwide across South Asia, Middle East and Africa region.
Beer (pictured above) was previously Mastercard’s regional legal consul for South Asia, Middle East and Africa. Before joining Mastercard, he worked in the corporate finance team of Man Investments in Switzerland, structuring hedge funds for global distribution.
He has also worked as a lawyer in law firms in the United Kingdom and Dubai.
You started a membership campaign after becoming the chairman. What is the status of the campaign?
BBG has grown along with Dubai’s development and the group reflects the vibrancy of British businesses in the UAE.
According to the Dubai Chamber, there are 1,700 British companies in Dubai and the Northern Emirates and an equal number could be operating in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. We would like to see more British companies joining BBG to benefit from our knowledge and networking. The group works closely with representatives of the UK and UAE governments to ensure British business and British products are promoted here. We invite anybody interested in improving the UAE-UK trade relationship to join the group.
What is the status of UAE-UK trade and investment?
The UAE has been considered one of the top 10 fast-growing target markets for the British Government. The UAE accounts for 56 per cent of British exports to the GCC, equating to £3.6 billion (Dh25.9bn) worth of goods. By contrast the share for other GCC countries include 24 per cent for Saudi Arabia, seven per cent each for Qatar and Kuwait and three per cent for Bahrain and Oman. Out of the UAE’s total trade with the UK, around 80 per cent was destined for Dubai. The UAE also supplied around one third of the region’s total £3.3bn worth of exports to the UK. The UAE exported £1bn to the UK, coming a close second to Saudi Arabia, which exported £1.1bn.
What are the potential areas in which British firms can contribute to Dubai’s Strategic Plan for 2015?
The top three sectors critical for Dubai’s future growth are security, infrastructure and tourism. About one million British tourists visited the UAE in one year and Dubai’s acquisition of the QE2 is a major tourism coup for the emirate.
British companies are also playing a vital role in the development of Dubai infrastructure. Dubai’s iconic building, the Burj Al Arab, was designed by the British company WS Atkins. For the Dubai Metro project, British company Serco, has been selected by the RTA to run one of the metro lines. Serco, is a British company running Dockland Railways, one of the best railways in the UK. The best and most fuel-efficient aircraft engines in the world are made by Rolls Royce, a British company. In order to improve business relations with the UAE, the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Sir John Parker, Chairman of Britain’s National Grid and vice-chairman of the Dubai Government-owned global marine terminal operator DP World, to the Business Council for Britain. Through the British Council here, Britain plays a vital role in development of education and cultural fields in Dubai.
In your opinion, what will be the likely impact of the sub-prime crisis in the US spreading to other markets including the UK and UAE?
The crisis will act as an accelerator for globalisation of business. American banks such as Citibank, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch are now getting shareholders from the UAE and other countries.
Diversity of employees, board of directors and international shareholders is always better than partners from a single nation. If America sneezes, the entire world will not get fever. The UAE has a robust economy and Dubai can withstand to a large extent.
Dubai is trying to become an international financial centre and commodities trading hub. Do you expect Dubai will one day compete with London as a financial centre?
Competition is always good for adding value. Dubai is setting up a world-class financial market, including metal, diamond and gold markets. The UK welcomes all type of competition. The companies in both countries can work together. Until that time, British companies will partner with local firms and adapt to the local market situation.
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