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GBCorp eyes telco, health, food sectors

Manama, January 18, 2010

Bahrain-based Global Banking Corporation (Gbcorp) is focusing on the global food, health and telecoms sectors for its investments, but also sees the Bahraini real estate market bottoming out, an executive said on Monday.

The Islamic investment house last week took an 11 per cent stake in Indian telecoms operator S Tel, jointly owned by Bahrain Telecommunications Company and India's Siva Group.

Ahmed Al Khan, head of investment banking at Gbcorp, told Reuters that the bank plans to make more investments in a sector seen as more stable than the property sector that has burned investors in the Gulf Arab region.

'The experience we developed on S Tel has given us a leap as far as understanding how to invest in the telecoms sector,' he said.

Khan said S Tel would operate in rural areas with low penetration rates and high population-density, adding that the company had won 350,000 subscribers during its first two weeks of operations.

Bahrain's Islamic investment houses are struggling to generate revenues after an end to a regional property boom late in 2008 hit their main business of placing real estate projects.

Gbcorp is one of the smaller players in the sector, having started operations in 2007 with a capital of $250 million.

Khan said that the investment house is also studying opportunities in food processing as a lot of the agricultural produce in Africa and India was not yet sufficiently supplied with services such as packaging.

He said that Gbcorp was looking for partners from the food sector to have distribution channels in place. 'I'll go in with a partner that already has off-take (agreements), I'll not go in and try to create sales channels myself,' he said, saying it would depend on investors' appetite how much Gbcorp would invest in the sector.

Khan said that Gbcorp is going ahead with the Marsa Al Seef project, a planned real estate development on Bahrain's north coast, with the tender for the land reclamation to be awarded to a contractor next week.

Several property developments in Bahrain and elsewhere in the region have been slowed down or halted and contractors are suffering under large unpaid bills racked up since the boom.

'Some areas have almost touched bottom so it's time to at least start recapitalising,' Khan said.-Reuters

Tags: Food | GBCorp | focus | teleco |

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