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Restructuring firm AlixPartners boosts Mideast headcount amid corporate slump

DUBAI (Reuters) - Turnaround and restructuring firm AlixPartners is boosting its headcount in the Middle East as corporates seek to cut costs and restructure debt amid the double shock of low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York-headquartered firm has recently hired six people in Dubai from one of its competitors, Alvarez & Marsal, and is looking to hire eight to 10 more restructuring specialists next year, said Gabriel Chahine, a Dubai-based managing director.

“We are hiring. We took a decision to double down on our restructuring team,” said Chahine, adding the firm now has around 40 people working in the region, where its main focus is the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Low oil prices are straining the two largest economies in the oil-rich Gulf while sectors such as tourism and real estate, particularly important for Middle East business hub Dubai, are suffering because of the pandemic.

Chahine said he expected more business to come from firms in oil services, real estate and construction, commercial aerospace, healthcare and consumer retail.

In Dubai in particular, requests for financial advice from companies in the tourism and hospitality industry have increased.

“For hospitality in Dubai, requests are not so much on debt restructuring, but more on the cost side and cash management, to be ready to navigate the crisis, as companies are struggling for survival,” he said.

The UAE central bank said last week the UAE economy would likely contract by 5.2% this year, revising a previous 3.6% contraction forecast, as virus containment measures hurt sectors such as trade and tourism.

Business conditions in the non-oil private sectors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been subdued over the past few months, and firms continue to cut jobs amid slow economic activity.

Cost take-outs are the focus of Saudi firms AlixPartners is engaging with, Chahine said. “Everyone is coming in, asking how can we trim costs, reset the business, resize companies.”

Reporting by Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Nick Macfie

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