19 November 2007

Lebanese fibreglass manufacturer eyes DIFX

(FT.com)-- Future Pipes Group, the Lebanese-owned global fibreglass pipes manufacturer, is planning an initial public offering on the Dubai International Financial Exchange, providing further evidence that the lacklustre bourse is gearing up for takeoff.

Chairman Fouad Makhzoumi, who is also a politician in his Lebanese homeland, said the offering, on the DIFX and also in London, would be substantial but did not reveal its prospective size or the value of Future Pipe, which has a focus on the oil-rich Gulf, with operations as far afield as the US, the Far East and Europe.

Mr Makhzoumi says the family-owned business has become the largest fibreglass manufacturer over its 35-year history, with growth powering ahead thanks to the oil price boom and increasing domestic investment into infrastructure across the region. The oil and gas focused firm is now seeking extra cash from the IPO to make more acquisitions, he said.

"The market is ready – it has matured and there is plenty of liquidity," Mr Makhzoumi told the Financial Times. His family-owned group had considered an IPO during the Gulf stock market bubble of 2005, ahead of its crash in 2006, but the firm decided not to float. "The DIFX is also picking up," he added, saying the roadshow and listing would happen "soon".

Dubai ports operator DP World is set to list on DIFX later this month, providing an anchor for the exchange, creating a high-profile name that the government hopes will drive traders to the underutilised bourse, owned by the Dubai International Financial Centre.

"We are essentially based in Dubai and believe we should support the system," said Mr Makhzoumi, whose firm, as a major provider to the general construction industry, is also benefitting from the region-wide real estate boom.

The businessman-turned-politician, says his firm has increasingly turned to Dubai as a business base since Lebanon started to slide into what appears to be another civil war in the making. He says his offices in Beirut have been attacked and threats been made to the business there.

The firm has yet to decide if its dual listing will be on the London Stock Exchange or the LSE's junior market, AIM.

But Mr Makhzoumi says his firm will continue to chart its global expansion after the IPO. "Twenty years ago no one thought the composites [made by Future Pipe] would have a real role – now it is a multi-billion-dollar industry," he said.-(FT.com)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.