Awwal Fitness Ltd. (AFL), a Jebel Ali Free Zone Company, part of the Al Hokair Group of Saudi Arabia, today signed an agreement to raise US$55 million through a syndicated loan facility. The facility will be used by AFL to develop the ‘Fitness First’ brand of health clubs in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Middle East in general. National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) was the mandated lead arranger and book runner for the facility.
“We are extremely happy to have been appointed as the mandated lead arranger for this facility and to have successfully closed this syndication with Al Hokair Group,” said Asad Ahmed, General Manager of NBF. “This closure reiterates the bank’s focus on growing our product capabilities to meet all aspects of our clients’ needs. We are particularly pleased that we have been able to include an Islamic tranche under a ‘Murabaha Financing’ structure within this facility.”
The syndication led by National Bank of Fujairah had a total of 7 banks participating, with Arab African International Bank, Dubai Bank and First Gulf Bank joining as lead arrangers while HSBC, Mashreq Bank and The Arab Investment Company joining as co-arrangers in the transaction.
“We are thankful to our banking partners for having the faith in the business that we have, and for their support of the current syndication,” said Tariq Khan, Al Hokair Group Finance Director. “We consider ourselves as the pioneers in bringing the ‘modern fitness club’ concept to the region and are very excited about the business prospects, given the success of the first three clubs in Dubai.”
The Al Hokair Group, which has an exclusive franchise agreement to promote the world’s largest health club operator – Fitness First – is one of the top ten commercial groups in Saudi Arabia. The group was established in 1991 in Saudi Arabia and currently holds a market leadership position in fashion retailing with 720 stores across the region representing over 50 international brands.
“The syndication attracted strong interest from the banks and will provide Awwal Fitness with the financial support required to scale up operations,” said PB Das, Head of Corporate and Institutions at NBF. “As corporate finance requirements for companies in the region grow, we expect strong growth in the syndicated loan market and there will be other structures which we will shortly bring to the market.”
“Awareness about health and fitness in Dubai grew greatly over the past few years,” added Gary Knill, the CEO of Awwal Fitness Ltd. “With the conclusion of this syndication, we will be able to build more facilities and reach more people. This is a very exciting time for the business in the region.”“This syndication reflects the confidence reposed by our Banking partners in Fitness First and the Al Hokair Group,” said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Chief Financial Officer for Awwal Fitness Ltd. in the Middle East, “This relationship has the potential to be extended to greater heights for mutual benefit in the near future.”
Fitness First, which started its operations in 1992 in the UK, is a number one global fitness company with more than 1.4 million members and operations in 18 countries and 510 clubs worldwide. It has five clubs in operation in Dubai at Ibn Battuta Mall, Uptown Mirdiff , Burjuman, the Dubai International Financial Centre and Dubai Festival City.
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