May 16, 2009 / 3:47 PM / 9 years ago

Kuwait's Alghanim eyes Asia industry acquisitions

SWEIMEH, Jordan (Reuters) - Kuwaiti conglomerate Al Ghanim Industries is looking at industrial acquisitions in Asia to help it diversify away from the Gulf region, where its revenues have been flat this year, the CEO said on Saturday.

Omar Kutayba Alghanim said the company, with annual turnover of $2.5 billion, saw opportunities for long-term investments in Asia after asset prices fell during the global financial crisis.

Al Ghanim operates in sectors including construction materials, retail, automotive and financial services.

“Right now we feel a lot more assets are more reasonably priced so we are looking at acquisitions and multiple opportunities, primarily in Southeast Asia,” Alghanim said told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum at the Dead Sea, Jordan.

“It’s a market that is resilient, where the drivers for that economy are more sustainable. India and Vietnam are great markets,” he said in an interview.

The Kuwaiti conglomerate would look to buy smaller stakes at first and possibly build those holdings with time, Alghamin said, adding the firm was not highly leveraged.

Alghanim said the company had already invested “several hundreds (of) millions dollars in India” and had recently opened a $40 million construction facility in Vietnam.

The company also planned new investments in Turkey where a subsidiary, a manufacturer of insulation materials, had already spent about $200 million.

SALES DOWN AT HOME

Alghanim said the company has already shelved some new manufacturing projects in its traditional markets in the Gulf Arab region, because they were no longer feasible.

A six-year economic boom in the world’s biggest oil-exporting region came to an end late last year as the credit markets tightened and a global recession pushed oil prices to as low as a quarter of record levels of $147 a barrel last summer.

That slowdown has prompted countries like the United Arab Emirates to cancel or put on hold hundreds of billions of dollars in expansion projects.

Sales for Al Ghanim building materials, including the Kirby brand of pre-cast engineering and structural steel, had dropped 20 percent in the Gulf while, by contrast, growing in India, Vietnam and other markets in Southeast Asia, Alghanim said.

“We will be down on our budgets and the projections we made. Overall, some businesses are down 20 percent, some are up, so if you blend it together we will be flat this year,” he said.

He added that consumer-heavy industries were “holding up well” because most Gulf states had not witnessed large numbers of redundancies from government employers.

“I think by end of 2010 we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t think we will see a sustained improvement in the market until then,” Alghanim said.

Editing by Daliah Merzaban/Ruth Pitchford

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