Dubai, Real Estate, Tech

Abbar, Bezos and a Trojan Camel

 

The names Mohamed Al Abbar and Jeff Bezos together evoke images of the struggle between Noon and Amazon to dominate Middle East e-commerce. We’ve uncovered a real estate transaction that connects the two men in a rather unusual  way.

At the center of this story is Gulf Islamic Investments LLC (GII), a “UAE-based financial services company regulated by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority”. GII started as Union National Financial Consultancy in 2004 and re-branded in 2014 to become GII.

As per the GII website:

Gulf Islamic Investments is committed to providing a diverse set of unique, duly researched, well-structured and risk-mitigated investment opportunities to its clients, with a view to achieve consistent and superior returns in the fields of private equity, venture capital, infrastructure and real estate.

Under the leadership of a committed group of prominent shareholders and investors, GII’s team enjoys collective investment, strategic management, finance and accounting experience. GII and its team enjoy a track record of managing $2.5 billion in assets and securing $5.5 billion in debt and in excess of $1.0 billion in equity.

The Transaction

For much of its history GII has operated quietly with limited media attention. That is until a transaction it did in late 2017 when it made a USD 144mn acquisition of Amazon’s logistics center in Germany.

According to the article, “These newly built facilities are leased out to Amazon on a long-term unbreakable lease with regular rental uplifts linked to Germany CPI.”

It’s fair to say the role of  landlord at one of Amazon’s largest European logistics center is a rather sensitive one, as warehousing and logistics is at the heart of Amazon’s retail success.

At the time, GII’s co-CEOs and co-Founders were Mohammed Al-Hassan and Pankaj Gupta. GII’s board was chaired by Mohammed Al Nasri.

What the website doesn’t detail is GII’s close relationship with Al Abbar. So close in fact that, according to Bloomberg, Al Abbar was the Founding Chairman of GII.

Links to Al Abbar

Using an internet archive tool we discovered that the GII website in February of 2017 listed Mohamed Al Abbar as the Chairman of the Board. We also found a group photo with other board members.

Mohamed Al Abbar (fifth from the left) with GII board

In fact Al Abbar was listed as Founding Chairman as late as the 23rd December 2017, four days prior to the announcement of GII’s acquisition of Amazon’s European logistics center. This firmly suggests Al Abbar was Chairman of GII whilst it was evaluating the Amazon transaction.

Questions:

  1. Why did Al Abbar stop being Chairman at GII around the same time GII acquired an important Amazon logistics center asset?
  2. At the time of sale of their European logistics center, did Amazon know that GII was closely related to Al Abbar, founder of Noon and board member of Emaar Malls (owner of Namshi)?
  3. Has Al Abbar, or by extension, anyone from Noon or Namshi (now part of Dubai Malls) ever had access to the Amazon European logistics center?
  4. Is Amazon comfortable – given the above questions – with their current landlord in Germany?

 

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