Press Release

July 04, 2013

Gulf Capital completes 100% Acquisition in Leading Regional Specialty Food Company, Chef Middle East L.L.C

Gulf Capital, one of the leading and most active alternative investment firms in the Middle East based in Abu Dhabi, today announced the acquisition from Vintage Holdings of 100% of Chef Middle East L.L.C (“Chef”), an importer and distributor of high-end, specialty and fine food products from around the world. “Chef” was established in 1995 in Dubai as a regional supplier of the finest quality foods to the hotel, food services, casual dining and airline industries. The company represents some of the best high-end global brands and world-class customers from around the region. It boasts first-class operations and facilities, servicing more than 1,000 customers in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman.

Dr. Karim El Solh, Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Capital said: “We are excited to be exposed to the thriving food and consumer sector in a growing niche through a highly reputable market leader, such as ‘Chef’. The strong underlying growth of the sector is driven by positive market fundamentals that continue to fuel the upward trend in the economy, including a booming population; growth in non-oil sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, transport and logistics, and services; and an increase in consumer spending.”

The Food & Beverage market is estimated at over AED 6 billion in the UAE at the moment, and forecasted to grow organically by 7% to 10% per annum, while it is estimated to be an AED 1.8 billion industry in Qatar and is forecasted to grow by 8% to 10% per annum. Tourist expenditure in the UAE is forecasted to grow at 11% per annum in the same period while total tourist numbers are expected to grow at 8% per annum. Private consumption is also high and is expected to grow by 13.6%, 13.0%, and 8.1% in the UAE, Qatar and Oman respectively.

Richard Dallas, Managing Director – Private Equity at Gulf Capital, commented: “The defensive nature of the food services sector, which has historically been resilient to recessions, and the leadership position of ‘Chef’ within this high-growth, demographically-driven niche subsector makes this acquisition ideal for us, and offers Gulf Capital a solid platform for future growth in the food sector. ‘Chef’ adopts a fresh approach to the sector which positions it as the leading player when it comes to this niche market of sourcing and distributing specialty and gourmet foods. We intend to work with the management team on enhancing the sophistication levels and professionalism of distribution and logistics in the region to help our customer base operate in a more efficient and reliable manner.”

“Chef” supplies some of the world’s leading food products from many European countries as well as Australia and Japan in the dry, chilled and frozen categories including cheese, chocolate, poultry, egg products, oils, vinegars, spices, pickles and condiments. “Chef” currently boasts 2,000 products and has a comprehensive temperature-controlled supply chain operation.

Muhannad Qubbaj, Managing Director – Private Equity at Gulf Capital, said: “‘Chef’ is a perfect addition to our portfolio and helps us balance it across the defensive sectors in the regional economies, where demographics are of an exciting nature and remain a fuel for growth in our geography of focus. With this acquisition, Gulf Capital will take ‘Chef’ to new heights, expanding the company’s reach by adding new territories and increasing the brand and product offerings.”

Abdullah Shahin, Executive Director – Private Equity at Gulf Capital, explained: “Our investment in a market leader operating in a highly fragmented industry and led by a remarkably talented management team, is a recipe for success. ‘Chef’ is a dynamic and engaging business which is well regarded by its customers and suppliers alike and known for quality reliable service. We will work with ‘Chef’ and its existing management team to take this great platform and build on its strengths in order to expand it into a world-class business and capture a larger share of the market. This will be achieved through investments in facilities, enhanced product offering, wider product range, bolt-on acquisitions and expansion into new markets.”

Through a leverage buy-out structure funded by a combination of equity and debt from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Gulf Capital has acquired the shares and assets of “Chef”, including its 5,000 square meters warehousing facilities and headquarters at Dubai Investment Park, its distribution centers and cold storage facilities across the UAE, Doha and Muscat, as well as its modern fleet of 50 temperature-controlled trucks.

Suresh Rajagopalan, Managing Director of Vintage Holdings said: “We are proud of the growth we have driven in the “Chef” business since we acquired it in 2006. We are delighted to be handing over a business with a strong leadership position in its sector based on its outstanding service reputation, with excellent brands and a loyal and motivated team. The business is well placed to continue its development in the future.”

Gulf Capital was advised by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP while Vintage Holdings was advised by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP.