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Sultan bin Sulayem

July 8, 2007 10:00 by

Dubai and Dubai World have reached a certain level in the public consciousness in the UAE and in the wider region. Where does Dubai Ports go from here?

The acquisitions that Dubai Ports made of CSX [World Terminals] in 2005 and P&O [Peninsular & Oriental] in 2006, were very necessary for us to be able to serve our customers. So the main target is really to be able to serve our customers in a strategic way, mainly India and China, and we are in a very good position to do that today. Also, we are strong in Europe and we are basically where we should be if we wanted to operate as a global operator. I think that’s what the ports have given us today. What is going to happen, of course, is we are going to grow our business.

Today, we are handling 52 ports around the world and in the next three years that number will have grown to almost 60 with the eight that are under construction. Now, all these ports are going to add to the capacity that we have and I think within three years we should have increased our capacity and our handling ability by 50 percent.

For you, as a businessman well used to dealing with the international community, how surprised were you by the American reaction to the original DP World deal?

It was a surprise to us, of course, due to the good relations we have with the United States. But we are businessmen, you know, and we always think from a business perspective and we decided to sell legally; we wanted to oblige. There was resistance because we had already received approval but we decided to sell because we believed it was in the best interests of the business.

What lessons did you learn from that yourself in how you would approach other deals?

The [American reaction] was very out of the norm. It is something we did not expect. I don’t expect anything like it again. It was a political tie that we were not part of but were dragged into but we came out of it. And we sold it as we promised and we are very happy.

Dubai as a city went on a PR offensive around the world in the wake of that incident. Do you think that the end result of the DP World affair can be seen as positive?

You know, we - and Dubai itself - are successful enterprises, and when you are successful, you are bound to get one or two articles out of ten that are against you. You can’t expect everyone to be happy with what you do. We actually value the market in the United States. The US market is a very strong and lucrative market. In spite of the fact that we decided to sell in March of last year we continued to invest in the United States. We have invested more than $2 billion since March last year. We acquired Mandarin Oriental in New York, we acquired W [Hotel] in Union Square, we acquired Loehmann’s retail outlets. That shows that the market is strong and whatever happened did not really make us change our mind. I mean, the United States continues to be a major ally.

And a friend?

And we would like to do business in the United States.

Is there any particular sector you are going to be looking at?

Whichever investment that we look at that we believe is going to be important is going to be lucrative.

Why has Dubai started to look outside of the region so much compared to the other GCC states and emirates?

Well, you know, we look at wherever the investment is easy and, to be honest, investment is easier in Europe and America. It is easier in the Far East than in the GCC and opportunities are also bigger. Rules of investment are easier, it is easy to make a transaction, to finish it, to finance it. So the markets overseas are more mature than the Middle East and we take advantage of it.

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