The Saffar Financial Infrastructure Fund (SFIF), a regional, growth stage fund focusing on the financial services sector in the Middle East, recently completed its first investment in John Charcol Middle East, a leading independent mortgage broker in the UAE.
The Saffar Financial Infrastructure Fund invests in growth stage financial services businesses in the MENA region. Saffar believes that financial services – encompassing banking, insurance, consumer finance, mortgages and asset management among others – is a form of infrastructure just like transport, utilities and water and is therefore critical to economic growth.
“Unlike many other investment companies that have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach, we believe that now is the ideal time to invest in the Middle East. Valuations have become more sensible, talented people are available and the long-term outlook for the region is promising. For an investment strategy such as Saffar’s that takes a 5 year view and that uses no leverage, current conditions are extremely attractive.” said Nicholas McDonagh, Fund Manager of the Saffar Financial Infrastructure Fund.
“At Saffar, we are accustomed to challenging times, having made our first investment in Zawya, the leading, regional financial information service provider, in November 2001. Saffar considers the financial services sector to be as integral to the infrastructure of the economy as physical infrastructure such as transportation and utilities. There is strong demand for mortgages, insurance, and investment products to serve the region’s needs and limit reliance on external financial institutions. Saffar will continue to actively invest, regardless of the current economic slowdown,” said Mishaal Al-Usaimi, CEO of Saffar and Chairman of John Charcol Middle East.
John Charcol Dubai has also recently concluded an arrangement with the new Abu Dhabi-based mortgage lender, Abu Dhabi Finance (ADF). ADF was launched in 2008 and aims to be a leading provider of mortgages to those purchasing property in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE. The new agreement will give John Charcol Middle East the mandate to introduce and package home finance applications to ADF.
“Clearly the recent property downturn has suffered in part from a lack of lending by regional banks. At the same time, the market has adjusted and is now focusing on property end-users, rather than speculators, a change that complements John Charcol Middle East’s business model. We look forward to strengthening our business relationship with Saffar, and continuing to realize our goals for the region, starting with this expansion into the Abu Dhabi market”, said Chris Dommett, CEO of John Charcol Middle East.