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Mideast, the largest retailer, will be expanding amid vaccine hopes

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (UAE) – The Middle East’s largest shopping center operator expects revenue and revenue to return to pre-epidemic levels by the end of next year, moving at full speed as it prepares to develop its biggest craze ever.

In an extensive interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Majid al-Futtaim chief executive Alain Bezhani said the business was recovering steadily amid the spread of vaccines in some countries in the region, starting 2021 with a relatively strong start.

“We are not out of the forests of the markets, but the situation is improving,” Bezhani said. “Going back to pre-epidemic levels in 2019, I think it will happen by the end of 2022 in terms of financial results.”

The company’s retail and leisure stock includes Dubai’s iconic Mall of the Emirates, hundreds of VOX movie theaters, more than 350 Carrefour grocery stores in the Middle East and beyond. The largest markets for the company, named after its billionaire Emirati founder, are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but it extends to Pakistan, Kenya and Uzbekistan.

The company’s return forecasts վերադարձ expansion plans reflect faster-than-expected Middle East economies from the coronavirus epidemic, although unequal distribution of vaccines remains a concern.

Majid al-Futtaim, which employs about 43,000 people in the region, saw revenue fall 7% last year to $ 8.9 billion and revenue fall 19% to about $ 1 billion due to coronavirus blockade restrictions. : The biggest hit of the business was its entertainment sector, where revenue fell 49% to $ 380 million and revenue fell 122%, resulting in losses of $ 25 million.

Despite last year’s decline, Majid al-Futaym plans to open 30 new movie theaters in Saudi Arabia this year, designing its biggest mall project in Riyadh and opening Oman’s largest store by the end of 2021.

“Each country has had its challenges to address. “The reality is that the UAE is the fastest recovery … … We expect a rapid recovery in other markets like Saudi Arabia,” Bejjani said. “We have seen that Egypt is very resilient.”

The United Arab Emirates has rapidly released COVID-19 vaccines, which are free for citizens and residents. Saudi Arabia is also expanding the spread of vaccines, offering free coronavirus treatment to all residents since the outbreak began.

It still does not return to normal. Majid Al Futtaim, like many businesses in the world, has to adapt to new realities, including the possible imposition of so-called “digital passports”. For example, in Bahrain, where Majid al-Futayim operates 30 cinemas, only those who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from COVID-19 will soon be allowed to go to the cinema, gymnasium and other select areas.

Bejjani said the company “strongly supports any event” that gives customers a sense of security.

“When there is an additional regulation that actually gives people more confidence, I think this is a plus, whether it is a vaccine passport or something else,” he said. “The important thing at the end of the day is that people want to get back to normal. “People want to go back to consumption.”

The rapid growth and expansion of the company since its inception in 1992. Reflect on his home base in Dubai, where a raging construction boom has transformed it from a fishing village into one of the most talked about modern cities in the world. The company’s economic return is also closely linked to the Dubai economy, where the International Monetary Fund expects the country’s overall economy to grow by 3.2% this year.

At the height of the epidemic last year, Dubai imposed a 24-hour curfew, requiring government permits to leave the house. Even then, the Carrefour supermarkets in Majid al-Futtaim remained busy.

As the United Arab Emirates imports most of its produce, meat and poultry, Majid al-Futtaim’s three-month stockpiling policy was crucial as nervous buyers in Dubai rushed to collect goods in the early days of the restrictions. movement:

After 2020, Bezhani said the company was in talks with the UAE government to increase stocks of some products for up to six months. The company also works with 6,000 local farmers to increase fruit and vegetable production, while also supporting far-flung farmers in Kenya to provide a diverse supply of fresh food to its stores in the UAE. Last year, half a dozen Carrefours hydroponic farms in the UAE began growing their own thousands of herbs, Bejjan said.

The company’s Carrefour business across the region saw profits grow 14% last year to $ 440 million, even as revenue fell slightly. This was partly due to the company’s 188% increase in online sales as people moved to grocery deliveries.

Late last year, the company also saw more visitors returning to its malls and cinemas.

In Dubai, the crown of the Majid Al Futtaim is the Emirates Mall, where the indoor ski slope և the world’s busiest Carrefour supermarket is located. A recent hike showed that these are cafes, restaurants and shops full of visitors. There were still closed shop windows as evidence of the economic slowdown that had hit the Gulf oil-exporting countries even before the epidemic.

The many luxurious malls in the region, however, are not just for shopping. They offer millions of people seeking escape from the long summer months. Bejjani said that despite the closure of some of its stores, there is still “high demand” for more entertainment and retail space in the Gulf area.

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