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We are all familiar with the doomsday scenario of a hacker collective taking control of an entire electrical grid and plunging an entire economy into an apocalyptic meltdown.

Recently, however, hackers have struck less predictable targets. Whether it’s the hack of the Democratic Party’s emails by Guccifer 2.0, the theft of the National Security Agency’s sophisticated cyber weapons or the “Peace” dumps of Yahoo user data on the Dark Web, 2016 was quite a year for cyber security.

The emergence of cyber security as a global industry is a direct result of the weaponisation of code. In 2004, the global cyber security market was worth $3.5 billion. By 2017 it is estimated to be worth $120 billion. That is a staggering growth rate.

According to Peter Singer, co-author of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, “if five billion new people are coming online, five billion new security problems are coming online.”

So too, cyber security has emerged as a major issue for the Gulf States. As Gulf nations such as the UAE forge ahead with their economy developments such as eGovernment, smart cities and other online-based strategies, the potential for attacks will only grow.

Amir Kolahzadeh, managing director of Itsec, a leading cyber security company in the Middle East, pointed to 85 percent of UAE residents being online as an indicator of the potential carnage a major cyber attack could wreak. “The UAE is a major target because of its glamour and vision,” Kolahzadeh added.

The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington believe cyber attacks in the region cost US$1 billion a year, an amount predicted to grow. The institute said the Middle East was fertile ground for cyber crime, with its accelerating adoption of technology to step-change its growth and development drive and high-value targets.

Mike Weston, vice president of Cisco Middle East, said that although there were more than a million cyber security positions available worldwide, the shortage of professionals to fill them was likely to grow rapidly.

The Cisco Annual Security Report 2016 indicated the deficit of cyber security workers would rise to 1.5 million by 2019 at the current rates of development.

“More and more organisations are looking to digitisation to compete in an increasingly global economy, while inadvertently increasing exposure to cyber attacks,” Mr. Weston said.

“Organisations need to invest in the people, processes, and technology that will enable them to become more resilient in the face of new attacks.”

Certainly, on the surface, the Gulf appears to be a target rich environment. Two major programs championed by Dubai are its Smart Dubai initiative, a city-wide initiative to transform Dubai and its Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) a program which pairs top startups with the Dubai government entities allowing them to build, test and deploy solutions for 21st-century. DFA is exploring Police drones, AI, immigration technologies, telemedicine, blockchain and 3D printing amongst a host of potential technology-driven social innovations.

David Michaux, of online security company Whispering Bell, said talent was a “big factor” in the UAE’s vulnerability.

“We seem to have a lot of thinkers who advise companies on how to change strategies and reorganise their security,” Mr. Michaux said. “We need more people to do hands-on fixing.”

With their established commercial relationships in the Gulf, British exporters would appear to be well positioned to surf this rising tide of cyber security investment

While the British Government has announced its Cyber Security Strategy, doors to the EU’s own cyber security budget may be closing fast given Brexit has been formally triggered. The Gulf offers revenue, distribution and service opportunities for British exporters with the right relationships, competitive products, and expertise. New Government-led Gulf initiatives with digital technology at their hearts are signaling the emergence of the Gulf as a lucrative cyber security opportunity for agile firms and savvy investors.


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Whether it’s importing products from Italy or Spain or selling to customers in Germany and France, Europe has been a major market for Britain’s online retailers.

With Western Europe accounting for 50 percent of Britain’s online exports, uncertainty over Brexit is putting pressure on Britain’s online retailers to articulate a strategy to either replace that potential lost revenue or complement it with sales to less volatile regions. One of those markets may prove to be the Gulf’s emerging eCommerce ecosystem.

Why look at the Gulf’s ecommerce sector?

The gradual maturing of eCommerce platforms such as premium luxury eTailer ounass.com, and mass-market players theduaibazarre.com and wadi.com has been overshadowed by the recent decision by Amazon to acquire pioneering market leader souq.com and the impending launch of the Gulf’s biggest eCommerce website, noon.com.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and a group of GCC investors are funding the $1 billion noon.com venture equally. It is targeting an inventory of 20 million products and aims to grow online sales in the Middle East from two percent of the total market ($3 billion) to 15 percent ($70 billion) within a decade.

Seductive growth prospects

Commenting on the announcement of the launch of Noon.com Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar said, “We want to turn the e-commerce market in the Middle East upside down. Noon will be a game-changing e-commerce platform.”

The retailer is building a 3.5 million sq ft warehousing facility in the Dubai World Trade Center. Other warehouses and distribution centers are planned for Riyadh and Jeddah. Noon has already tied up local distributors, brands, small vendors, and retailers. Noon’s CEO Fodhil Benturquia commented, “Our prices will be very competitive and we will offer a great customer experience. We will deliver authentic products on time and meet customer expectations. Physical stores also have the opportunity to sell on our platform.”

This dynamic environment offers opportunities for British brands and British goods to find lucrative markets under this expanding eCommerce umbrella.

As Ali Haji, head of online retail operations at the GCP Group, owner of thedubaibazaar.com observed, “We believe there are opportunities for existing players to flourish as they step up to the challenge.” Haji went on to explain, “That’s part of capitalising on the “long tail phenomenon” in the online selling space. We have seen it elsewhere, where even small niche operators can develop and even thrive in the paths cleared by the likes of Amazon.”

As Saudi Arabia and the UAE beat the path for eCommerce, secondary markets such as Egypt are building momentum, providing British exporters with significant growth opportunities in a region renowned for viewing shopping as a major recreational activity.

Potential perils ahead for British retailing

With Brexit turmoil promising to plunge the sector into uncertainty for the next two years, the Gulf offers revenue, distribution and service opportunities. Newly developed expertise in online niche segments, coupled with advances in logistics, warehousing, and delivery services are signaling the emergence of the Gulf as an eCommerce opportunity for canny investors and businesses.

Get in touch to see how Pegasus Strategic Advisory can help your company.

 


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Fine art has long played a role in a balanced investment portfolio. However, with tremors in global financial markets, greater volatility entering the market, and a challenging wealth management environment, canny investors have looked for alternate ways to hedge their portfolio risk.

Art has been a popular and successful investment option since the 2008 Global Economic Crisis. However Brexit fears over London’s place in the international financial sector, a downturn in the luxury goods sector and a shift in influence east towards China and the Middle East is posing challenges for British investors.

Art As An Inflation Hedge

Accepted as a tangible asset and eminently convertible form of wealth, art has been adopted as a hedge against inflation. As Salma Shaheem, Joint Venture Partner and Head of Middle Eastern Markets at The Fine Art Group put it, “Art is a real asset that enjoys a negative correlation with traditional assets, and therefore acts as a hedge against inflation. A valuable collection can start with as little as five or six very rare, museum quality pieces.”

Art Genesis For Fine Art Service Sector

Fine art is also stimulating the emergence of its own niche services sector with British firms well placed to capture a major share of its future growth. As a Deloitte’s Art & Finance Report (2016) put it, “We believe that in an increasingly competitive market place, client-centric services around passion assets, on the one hand, offer significant potential in building stronger bonds between the wealth management industry and their clients and, on the other hand, have a fiduciary responsibility to incorporate art and collectibles in their service offering as more and more wealth is allocated to passion assets.”

Enter The Gulf

While China get all the public love and affection, particularly from the great auction houses of Christies and Sotheby’s, the inflow of epic wealth into the Gulf over the past decade has produced a generation of western-educated high net worth individuals who increasingly see art and collectables as an engaging cultural interest, a means to signal their social standing and as a natural hedge. Both Christies and Sotheby’s have offices in Dubai, evidence of the Gulf’s growing attractiveness as a growth destination.

Views On 2017 – 2018

As Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus are consumed by internal strife, a new generation of outward-looking cities have emerged in the Gulf: Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi are assuming the predecessor’s mantle of cultural ambassadors. To this rising generation, art is international and extends well beyond traditional Islamic art, or politics and conflict as inspiration, fuelling interest in western as well as regional artists.

Enter Art Dubai

Art Dubai is an international art fair with roots in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. It is the pre-eminent art festival in the Gulf. The eleventh edition of Art Dubai took place in March 2017 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In 2017, more than 90 galleries representing 44 countries participated in the festival, with 75 percent of them repeat exhibitors.

Conclusion

British investors interested in exploring art as part of their portfolio strategy have enjoyed solid returns in the run up to 2016. After some market turbulence, recent London sales indicate the international fine art market is rebounding. Growing demand for significant paintings and works of art fuelled by private collectors and the creation of major new art galleries in the Gulf offers British investors access to a market with potential for both international auctions and as an export market for art-related expertise.

 


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Brexit fears, a threatened boycott of British produce post-Brexit over GM contamination fears by the EU, price spikes, supply issues and the usual litany of floods and extreme weather are making life interesting for British food companies.

Whether primary producers or food processors and manufacturers, food has been in the news lately. The emergence of a black market in lettuce brought on by poor growing conditions across the Mediterranean, media campaigns highlighting shrinking pack sizes (thank you Toblerone) and price spikes have put British food companies under pressure to explore other avenues for growth.

One of the more notable is the Gulf with its growing population and seemingly bottomless appetite for both investment and partnerships. The Middle East market for packaged Food and Beverages is tipped to reach US$2.2 trillion by 2020. In KPMG’s latest ‘Hungry For More?’ report, Anuraj Bajpai Partner and Head of Retail in the Lower Gulf describes the latest drivers of F&B success in the Gulf, “Innovation, whether in terms of menu enhancements or new ways of understanding consumer preferences is a differentiator. The wide array of formats, concepts and cuisines offered in the UAE mirrors its varied demographics.”

With long-term market indicators remaining positive, Bajpai is keen to point out the region is not without challenges. ”Operators need to understand and predict customer behaviour – which can be challenging.”

Showcasing the Very Best of British

British companies attending Gulfood 2017 in Dubai are anticipating a bumper year, with a weak pound driving food exports to the region. Sterling is hovering around $1.24, having slipped from a high of $1.49 prior to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. This currency move has translated into a significant advantage for meat and dairy exporters. Premium lamb, traditionally one of Britain’s most expensive meats, is enjoying renewed popularity in the region.

Nasco, a British wholesale of brands including Weetabix, John West tuna and Ribena is expecting its best show in five years, “Our business in January has already shown a 30-40 per cent pick up on last year,” said Ashish Vidani, a Nasco Director.

Birmingham’s Food State International is expanding its product range including its new London Flavours crisps and snacks range. “Our business in this region is growing, it has been really successful for us. The value of the pound is helping, but it’s a dynamic market which constantly demands new product,” commented Lisa Burrows, Project & Marketing Manager.

Gulfood is the world’s biggest annual food and hospitality show, connecting exporters with buyers and distributor from the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. In 2017, Gulfoood spans more than 1 million square feet of exhibition space for 5,000 international exhibitors, including more than 1,000 new-to-show food and beverage producers.

So what?

British investors with a direct or indirect investment in the food and beverage sector have enjoyed sound returns in the past few years. Sustained demand coupled with the release of new products, packaging and retail displays have offset some of the market volatility. However, with the traditional European export market under pressure due in part to the uncertainty associated with the May Government’s Brexit strategy, British domestic growth is under a cloud. For investors, this is cause for anxiety. In a post-Europe environment companies that do not have an effective international growth strategy in place are likely to struggle. The Gulf holds out the prospect of continuing to be a bright spot on the world’s growth map.

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For those of you that might have listened to the BBC World Service Business Daily podcast today, you will have no doubt heard about the struggles of reduced spending on healthcare in a time where the cost of care is increasing predominantly due to an ageing population.

The May Government’s efforts to reign in spiraling NHS costs combined with uncertainty over Brexit has put Britain’s healthcare industry suppliers under pressure to tap into alternate sources of growth.

Enter the Gulf’s booming demand for better healthcare. As the Gulf populations continue to grow, people live longer and their healthcare needs become increasingly complex. Many governments within the Gulf are seeking solutions to enable them to meet this growing demand and improve their frontline healthcare services and delivery facilities.

From Dubai to Doha, British healthcare related exports to the Gulf are rising rapidly. Gulf countries have witnessed tremendous changes in the past decade with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar all aggressively seeking to partner with leading international healthcare organisations to transform their economies.

The Saudi and UAE economies are diversifying rapidly into knowledge-driven industries, meaning there are numerous opportunities for exporters and investors willing to commit to a long-term presence together with skills and technology transfer. Saudi Arabia is looking to build its pharmaceutical sector. Furthermore, the UAE has a 2021 goal of being in the world’s top 20 medical tourism destinations.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran also holds out the intriguing possibility of growth. As with its defense and automotive sectors, Iran’s healthcare sector has previously suffered from a lack of access to international investment and expertise. However, with a population of 77.5 million and a now rapidly increasing import growth in general healthcare and pharmaceuticals, the prospects look enticing.

Earlier this month in Dubai the Arab Health 2017 Exhibition was held. It is the largest gathering of healthcare and trade professionals in the MENA region. Some 4,400 companies from over 70 countries participated. This year over 150 leading UK healthcare professionals and clinicians together with renowned hospital groups traveled to the Middle East to showcase ‘the very best of British’ healthcare. From breakthroughs in gene therapy to diabetes treatment and prevention, integrated hospital care systems and clinical trials, through to surgical equipment and anesthetic instrumentation, British firms are helping local partners develop their healthcare systems and facilities.

The Gulf is an area of rapid growth for the healthcare industry, and the pace does not look set to slow down. With so much new information concerning potential opportunities generating such a large amount of conflicting information it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those that succeed will be those with access to clear, concise and consolidated information without the extra noise. PSA can help you.

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The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is, of course, operating in a very challenging time. OPEC is facing serious competition in the global market share for oil supply. The primary competition to OPEC’s market dominance is emanating from suppliers of shale gas, particularly US-based producers of shale gas. While many commentators are forecasting that demand for oil will eventually slow down, at this point in time it certainly remains strong. The ‘peak oil’ time that many have predicted is still many years away suggesting demand for oil will continue to remain strong for the foreseeable future.

OPEC recently decided to cut its oil supply, abandoning the idea that it should pursue market share at all costs. This decision has benefited OPEC’s primary competitor- namely US shale. One can understand OPEC’s decision given its members, particularly Saudi Arabia, have previously experienced negative consequences as the result of a ‘pump-no-matter-what’ approach in order to secure market share. While the rig-count in the US continues to rise, OPEC has publically declared and demonstrated that it will stick to curtailing its oil supply in an attempt to boost oil prices and bring the market back into what it considers to be the ‘right balance’.

There is a view that this tug-of-war between OPEC and shale-gas producers could result in the former’s demise. However these predictions are unlikely to come to fruition. The major problem with shale-gas is that despite recent improvements and efficiencies it remains a comparably very expensive operation. Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih hit the nail on the head when he recently addressed the current situation in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Al-Falih rightly stated that it would take considerable time for US oil production to claw back the ground it recently lost to OPEC in the ongoing fierce competition between the two for market-share.

The comparatively low-cost producing OPEC reduced their oil production late last year by an estimated 1.8 million barrels a day with the aim of propping up oil prices. The consequential rise in oil to above US$50 a barrel led to an increase in the number of US-based rigs for shale production that had previously shut down due to their unprofitability. However this resulted in an exhausting of the most fertile reservoirs and an increase in costs for contractors involved in the oil production process. As al-Falih pointed out, this will mean that there will be an inflation of costs for US shale producers in the coming years at least.

OPEC members are old hands at the oil game. They have faced challenges like this before and have predictably triumphed. The shale-gas producers are the new kids on the block buoyed by early success. However, the highly efficient OPEC is playing the long-game and it will continue to remain the key market-player until (if ever) the world decides it no longer needs oil.

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Many U.K. based investors attracted by the Gulf’s vibrant, growth-oriented economies are understandably nervous about the region’s legal frameworks. Dubai recognised business confidence as a key component in creating its vision for its future diversified economy. One of its solutions to the issue of business confidence was to create the DIFC Courts in 2004.

What are the DIFC Courts?

The DIFC Courts are an independent common law judiciary based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Its courts have jurisdiction over civil and commercial disputes. Originally, the DIFC Courts were limited to the DIFC zone’s geographical boundaries. However, in 2011 the DIFC Court’s remit was extended to any local or international cases. The DIFC Court’s philosophy emphasizes resolving commercial disputes where possible rather than relying exclusively on litigation and implementing a robust enforcement regime. The Courts make extensive use of mediators while its Small Claims Tribunal, the only one of its kind in the Gulf, is designed to provide swift and efficient justice for small matters. Experienced international jurists provide a deep bench for the DIFC Courts.

Security blanket for global business

The DIFC Courts set out a vision in early 2016 in which it aspired to be one of the world’s leading commercial courts by 2021. In achieving this ambitious target the DIFC Courts are looking to continue to focus on innovation, judicial excellence, efficient service and a strong enforcement regime. International and local business confidence in the DIFC Courts was evidenced by the strong growth it recorded in 2016, with caseloads increasing in both value and volume.

International Jurists play a major role in the evolution of the DIFC Courts

For international investors and businesses, the DIFC Courts system holds three primary attractions:

  1. International standard senior commercial judicial figures on its bench with expertise spanning commercial litigation, maritime law, banking & finance, aerospace oil & gas and insurance sectors
  2. A robust enforcement regime evidenced by its track record in successfully overseeing compliance with its orders and in its ability top recover a larger proportion of legal costs
  3. Exclusion of local Dubai Courts from jurisdiction over its cases

The role international appointments are playing in nurturing UAE national judicial skills was illustrated by the May 2016 appointment of two former justices in charge of the Commercial Court in the High Court of London to key roles in the DIFC Courts. Justice Sir David Steel was named as the new Deputy Chief Justice while Justice Sir Jeremy Cooke was named to the bench. Justice Steel replaced Justice Sir John Chadwick himself an eminent U.K. jurist.

What appears to be the general advice given to U.K. investors?

If you are doing business in the Gulf, try where possible to nominate the DIFC Courts as your local jurisdiction. Ensure your contracts, Heads of Agreement, Licenses, MOUs and NDAs include reference to the DIFC Courts’ arbitration services.

What does all this mean, then?

The Gulf offers access to new growth opportunities including its increasingly attractive transnational trading hub based on the region’s geographical position, sea and air transport links and proximity to markets (two-thirds of the world’s population are within an eight-hour flight of Dubai). A critical factor in supporting trade and investment is a fair and equitable legal system. Since its inception, the DIFC Courts have shown themselves as capable of driving enforcement and delivering international standard judicial outcomes while continuing to evolve the service delivery model to promote efficiency.

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Algeria has always been a notoriously closed economy. It has a history of very strict protectionist laws that make it hard for foreigners to invest directly, such as a requirement for majority 51% Algerian ownership in all new business ventures (49/51 investment law). In the most recent “Doing Business” global survey (June 2016) it ranked at 156 out of 190. It has a few tricks up its sleeve though.

Unsurprisingly, oil and gas has been the one area that countries like the United States have directed their money when it comes to investing in Algeria, but there is now a push to change this.

In June 2016 Algeria’s Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced a recovery plan known as the New Economic Growth Model. The aim is to diversify the national output away from hydrocarbons and the associated damage that their fluctuating prices can cause to an economy too heavily reliant on them as a source of income. Not an uncommon theme across oil dependent nations.

If the country is to have a chance of acheiving the lofty targets they have set themselves then they will need to continue to shed the legacy of vested interests, problems with repatriating profits, convoluted bureaucracy and a lack of intellectual property enforcement. No mean feat, but they are serious. Tax revenues increased 6% year on year in September 2016 and much of this gain was as a result of the growth of non-oil and gas businesses in the country rather than austerity measures.

Measures such as VAT and custom duty exemptions for imports related to foreign direct investment, tax breaks on property and other incentives were announced in April 2016 in order to attract outside money to help with an economy suffering from volatile energy prices.

With barriers to entry being removed to many key markets in the region there is real hope that they will replicate the advances of neighbouring Morocco who have a well-diversified workforce.

There is little doubt that Algeria has taken some bold steps towards supporting its economic vision. Don’t pop the champagne just yet though. Companies will still have to overcome language barriers, distance, customs challenges, an entrenched bureaucracy, difficulties in monetary transfers, currency conversion, repatriating dividends, and of course price competition from Chinese and Turkish business, amongst others.

Nobody said it would be easy, but in the words of Thomas A. Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
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A little over fifty years ago, Abdul Rahim and Abdul Latif Ibrahim Galadari sat down and decided they wanted to introduce the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the technological advancements of the western world. Thus came the founding of the Galadari Brothers, a company that has introduced over 30 global brands to the Middle East. As stated on their website, the company “is multi-industry, multi-product, multi-service and multi-national, overseeing operations across the Gulf, Asia, and Australia.” Galadari Brothers has given people access to companies they would otherwise never be able to purchase from in the UAE, from Mazda cars to Baskin Robbins ice cream. I’m sure citizens were ecstatic to have access to 31 delicious ice cream flavors in the blistering summer heat. Additionally, the company employs over 4,000 people and significantly benefits the economy. 

   The company’s most significant export is via Galadari Printing and Publishing Co. L.L.C., which publishes Khaleej Times, an English language daily newspaper that is distributed throughout the Middle East. The paper holds the distinction of being the first English newspaper launched in the UAE, publishing its first edition in 1978. The paper publishes standard news, such as politics, economics, and crime, and then turns tabloid with photos of Shaikh Mohammed’s son’s birthday or nine things President Obama will be remembered for (complete with a photo of a winking Obama). The online version reads Daily Mail-esque and, to many who see nothing but a war-stricken Middle East on every TV news source, offers a unique glimpse into the livelihood, gossip, and interests of Middle Easterners. 

   The UAE is well known for her vast oil and natural gas reserves, which account for the majority of the country’s income. Galadari Brothers has chosen a different path to success and has, in the process, acted as a key liaison in bringing unique products to the region. Their positive track record is proven by the countless awards they have received, from Galadari Brothers Equipment Solutions LLC’s award for the Best All Round Dealer Performance in the Middle East for 2013 to Galadari Ice Cream Co. Ltd. (LLC)’s “Developer of the Year Award” by Dunkin Brands for record breaking number of New Store Openings in 2013. For a country famous for exporting oil and natural gas, it’s nice to be known for importing ice cream. 

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