After the financial crisis in 2009 and at a time when others were still worried about Dubai’s future, Mr. Ismaik acquired a controlling stake in Arabtec, a contracting company publicly listed on the UAE Stock Exchange. He did so at a time when the stock prices were still relatively depressed and prospects for the construction sector seemed bleak. He invested in the company and later sold it for a multiple of his purchase price. Arabtec was the most active and traded stock on the UAE stock exchange at the time, contributing approximately 70-80% of the total market volume of trading

Mr. Ismaik envisioned growing Arabtec out of its dependence on oil reliant clients by moving into new geographies and new high-margin/high-value segments (e.g. water treatment). In doing so, Mr. Ismaik created a very ambitious expansion plan by entering into new markets and business lines which would have given Arabtec a stronger balance sheet that would have been less susceptible to fluctuations in the construction sector in the GCC

Mr. Ismaik envisioned Arabtec growing, from its local mid-level contractor status, into a top 10 global leader. To move towards his vision, Mr. Ismaik introduced and actively worked towards:

  • Implementing standardized controls, processes, procedures and management information systems
  • Entrenching GCC presence, while expanding into North Africa and select parts of Asia and Eastern Europe
  • Growth through mergers and acquisitions
  • Joint Ventures with Samsung (Oil & Gas EPC) and GS Engineering (Infrastructure projects)
  • Diversifying industry coverage into segments that presented greater profitability and less cyclicality
  • Investing in technology, machinery and human resources
  • Instilling a strong customer focused culture built on timely delivery and improved operational/project cycles
  • Improving access to capital by tapping into capital markets. In 2013, Arabtec raised a AED2.4bn rights issue which was oversubscribed

Under the leadership of Mr. Ismaik, Arabtec market capitalization grew from c.AED 8bn in Dec 2012 to c.AED 79bn in May 2014