Doing Business with Italy? First Visit the Market in Person

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There are so many investment opportunities, but they have to be discovered on site, as one of the emerging investors on the new Emirate financial scene suggests.

Adel Al Hosani is one of the forty most prominent players in the Emirates’ new world of finance. A power broker who sees in the ever intensifying relations between Italy and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and the UAE in particular, a major opportunity for his business. He made his way first in the banking sector and then in real estate, accumulating considerable wealth. The Maam Property Investment Co. of Abu Dhabi, of which he is president, boasts and impressive $3 bn real estate portfolio. In 2008 he also founded Abu Dhabi Capital, a boutique where shareholders have involved Gulf area businessmen and evaluated investments in Italy, in mechanics and in finance.

How did you become interested in Italy?

Italy is a world leader in many businesses: construction materials, food, fashion, design. In the Middle East, 450 million people are interested in this. I wonder why do these Italian companies not have a direct presence in the UAE. Instead, they send the products by way of China, Korea and India. The Middle Eastern market is full of affluent clients, ideal for Italian products.

How can the information gap regarding opportunities in the Gulf or, in turn, in Italy be overcome?

What we need is the creation of a mixed committee of financial CEOs of companies from both countries, which I am thinking to encourage. It’s important that the participants can hold conferences in both countries, because many investors here are interested in Italian companies: for instance, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund has bought a 5% stake in Unicredit and it has a stake in Autostrade Italia too. But maybe our interest in investing in Italy is not as much as in the USA and UK because there is no progress in the exchange with Italy, although, as I could see during my visits to Italy, there are many Italians who are interested in coming here.

What should be done, concretely?

Organize meetings and events between business, industrial and finance players three or four times a year in each country, maybe in different towns: in Milan, Rome, Venice etc. in Italy, and in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in UAE. This would help to bring attention to the issue of international investment in both countries as sovereign funds, banks and corporations could have more information on the matter and meet. Visiting makes a difference: when I was there I could see a plant and know how its whole production cycle works. I also met the entrepreneur, and then I was taken to the sector’s exhibition in Milan where I saw thousands of visitors and I myself took pictures: that made a difference.

Interview by Francesca Bruni

Courtesy of Lombard. The Italian Magazine of International Finance

Adel Al Hosani started working at the Central Bank of Abu Dhabi, where he remained for eight years first working in the Treasury Department and then investment banking. In 1993, he was taken on by the government-owned National Bank, the largest commercial bank in the Emirates. Between 2009 and 2012, he was CEO of the MENA region for LLB Bank (Liechtensteinische Bank).

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