Kuwait Financial Center "Markaz" held its ordinary Annual General Assembly Meeting for the year 2020 on 22 March 2021, with an attendance rate of (72.75%). The Assembly approved the Board of Directors’ recommendation not to distribute dividends for shareholders and Board members’ remuneration for the year ending on December 31, 2020, and to continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on the business in the medium term.
Standing tall and resilient to the pandemic
During his opening speech, Mr. Diraar Yusuf Alghanim, Chairman of Markaz, said: “The momentum seen in global financial markets at the start of 2020 dissipated with the onset of the health crisis, which rapidly morphed into a worldwide economic crisis in an unexpectedly short time frame. Markaz’s top priority during this period was to comply with the governmental health and safety regulations and to ensure the well-being of all our employees by quickly adopting a ‘work from home’ policy early in the year. We are proud of how our teams swiftly adapted to this new work style and demonstrated impressive ongoing dedication and commitment in servicing our corporate, institutional, and private clients”.
Overcoming challenges with minimal losses
Alghanim pointed out that despite these ongoing challenging market conditions, Markaz delivered a relatively resilient financial performance underpinned by a strong rebound in the second half of the year, in spite of the net loss attributable to shareholders for the year that was contained to KD 1.72 million or negative earnings per share (EPS) of 4 fils.
In December 2020, Markaz successfully closed its KD 35 million 5-year bond issue through a private placement. Markaz also continued to maintain strict financial discipline across the firm, and to operate with a robust capital structure while ensuring that liquidity remained aligned to the near-term business needs and outlook.
Rising with business, environment and society
Alghanim emphasized Markaz’s continuing commitment to promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and maintaining strong and effective governance practices. He also added that despite the challenges wrought by the pandemic, Markaz remained closely connected, and delivered high-quality advice, to its clients. Alghanim also expressed his pride in Markaz’s achievements at winning prestigious awards in recognition of its performance and initiatives. In 2020, Markaz was named ‘The Best Investment Bank in Kuwait’ by Global Finance and EMEA Finance and won ‘The Best Asset Manager in Kuwait’ and the ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in the Middle East’ awards from EMEA Finance.
Markaz looks forward to a positive performance in 2021 with the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination drive around the world leading to a faster recovery in business and economic activity, but remains cautiously optimistic as there is an ongoing need to closely monitor the course and impact of new Covid-19 strains in the near-term.
Ending his speech Alghanim thanked all regulatory authorities, including the Central Bank of Kuwait, the Capital Markets Authority and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that have continued to provide Markaz with professional guidance and support during these challenging times. In addition, he extended his gratitude and appreciation to the clients, business partners and stakeholders who provided their unwavering support to Markaz. He also thanked Markaz’s former CEO, Mr. Manaf A. Alhajeri, who resigned on 29 October 2020, for his relentless efforts during his journey at Markaz, and affirmed his confidence that the Executive Management under the leadership of Mr. Ali H. Khalil, CEO, and the entire Markaz family will persevere to continue implementing its vision to be the partner of choice in wealth creation and preservation.
Mr. Ali H. Khalil, CEO, explained that Markaz swiftly moved to remote systems, continuously monitored market developments, and adjusted client portfolios to align with their revised investment objectives. To keep the clients fully informed, Markaz launched a daily investment dashboard to monitor investments and assets across the world and the GCC, and report movements in a timely manner. Markaz further enhanced its internal control systems and used secured platforms to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data.
Mr. Khalil emphasized that since its inception, digital transformation was one of the most important ongoing initiatives in line with the strategy of Markaz. Recently, Markaz implemented new solutions to enhance the customer experience from the start at the onboarding stage, through the entire investment journey. Mr. Khalil said: “The launch of our personalized investment app “iMarkaz” in February 2020 represents a major accomplishment in our efforts to service our clients better and cater to their evolving needs and expectations. The interactive digital platform allows investors to build their investment portfolios and connects them to Markaz relationship managers who will advise them further on how best to achieve their financial objectives. For our real estate business, Markaz launched an Online Resident Services portal, bringing a new level of convenience and comfort to our tenants. This platform fully automates the rental process efficiently and securely, including rent payment, maintenance requests, and lease management and renewals”.
Mr. Khalil Added: “As a management team, our focus will remain on understanding our clients’ dynamic needs; accordingly, improving our product and service offering, and identifying new suitable investment opportunities arising from the current market conditions. Our research-based approach is intended to anticipate trends and better position our clients’ investments to meet their objectives”.