10 January 2015, Gulf Times
Al Ahli Holding Group plans to build ‘Little Manila’ outlets across the Middle East
Dubai-based Al Ahli Holding Group on January 8 revealed plans to open no less than 20 Philippine-themed food and beverage outlets called “Little Manila” across the Middle East and beyond over the next five years, with the first outlet to be opened by the end of the first quarter of 2015 in Dubai.
“Little Manila” outlets will consist of at least six branded Philippine restaurant and beverage stores for which Al Ahli Holding Group has signed franchise agreements for the Middle East. The brands are Binalot, a Filipino fast food chain known for its banana-leaf wrapped dishes, Jay-J’s, another Filipino restaurant chain known for its special chicken meals, Fruitas, a franchise chain that sells tropical fruit shakes, Mochicreme, a popular ice cream brand, Zagu, a milk shake franchise, and Fiftea, a franchise brand serving tea mixes.
According to Mohammed Khammas, chief executive officer of Al Ahli Holding Group, the “Little Manila” outlets should bring “the best of Philippine brands” to the Middle East and other selected international markets and serve the vast Filipino expat community in the Gulf countries.
Khammas added that his company also plans to invest directly in the Philippines as he is “highly bullish” on business prospects there. The group has started talks with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, a Philippine state-owned development entity tasked with transforming former US military bases in the country into economic zones or urban developments. The plans include substantial investments in Clark Green City, a 9,500-hectare planned eco-city some 80km north of Manila, as well as in Metro Manila. Al Ahli Holding Group would be primarily interested in the sectors tourism, family entertainment, as well as and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), Khammas said.
He indicated that the projects would require “hundreds of millions of dollars” in investment as they were “strategic, very long-term” developments and would have “huge economic impact”. They will also include “innovations” that would put the Philippines into the international limelight. As a start, Al Ahli Holding Group will organise Asia Pop Comic Con, an international comic and pop culture convention, later this year in Manila.
Al Ahli Holding Group, founded 1977, is a multibillion dollar, 5,000-employee conglomerate with a highly diversified portfolio of businesses and is known for its innovative approach towards creating new business models and developing niche markets. The group consists of around 30 companies with core activities ranging from real estate to construction, engineering and infrastructure, retail and trading, technology and logistics, lifestyle and fitness, entertainment, hospitality and strategic and innovative development. For example, it has developed the first outlet mall concept in the Middle East (Dubai Outlet Mall and Outlet City); it has established one of the largest plastic manufacturing companies in the region, delivers aluminium engineering and design solutions, operates luxury serviced residences in the UAE and a chain of gyms throughout the Middle East. It has also built Fujairah’s largest shopping mall, runs a company for creative IT solutions, designs entertainment theme parks and has recently launched the world’s largest comic and pop-culture collectible store, Comicave.