Alvarez & Marsal unveils ambitious growth plans in Middle East

11 March 2021 3 min. read
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Enticed by a growing pool of restructuring clients in the Middle East and keen to serve Covid-impacted businesses, Alvarez & Marsal plans to double its headcount in the region over the next half a decade. 

Alvarez & Marsal officially launched in the Middle East with a Dubai office in 2008, and maintained a small operation until a few years ago. When Saeeda Jaffar took over as Managing Director and Head of the firm’s Middle East practice in December 2015, the outfit counted four professionals.

More than 50 people now make up the team, and plans are to keep this momentum going. “We’ll probably close the year between 60 and 70 people, depending on how quickly we can bring people in. And I think in the next three to five years, we should, at the very least, double again,” Jaffar told The National.

Alvarez & Marsal unveils ambitious growth plans in Middle East

Several factors are fueling this growth. One is the sheer demand for Alvarez & Marsal’s growing track record and expertise in the region, marked by several big-ticket projects in the last year alone. Early in 2020, it came to light that the firm was administrating NMC Health – the UAE’s largest private healthcare operator.

The comprehensive project involves potential fraud investigations, asset recovery and restructuring. In a less controversial assignment, the firm was tapped by Abu-Dhabi-based aviation giant Etihad in 2019 to evaluate prospects for a possible turnaround at the bankrupt Jet Airways.

And there are many more examples – largely concentrated in the health industry according to Jaffar. “Even before NMC, we did a lot of work in the UAE as well as in Saudi on health care, on transformations and top line, bottom line pricing, revenue cycle management, efficiencies, effectiveness – all of that in the local context very much.”

In 2019, the firm brought in healthcare veteran Raymond Berry to lead the Middle East healthcare practice, in a bid to establish an industry stronghold and feed a growing swathe of clients in the sector. “And now with NMC, that's absolutely further cemented our position,” said Jaffar. Outside of this, the region’s vibrant construction industry has also given the firm plenty of business.

Poised for a boom

The second factor fueling ambitions is Covid-19, and its severe economic impact. Strapped for cash and keen to repivot for the new normal, businesses in the Middle East and globally are turning to restructuring consultants for support. Alvarez & Marsal is one of the globe’s top restructuring consulting firms, and is carving out a niche of its own in the region.

However, Alvarez & Marsal is not the only firm building capacity in the space. Restructuring competitors AlixPartners, Duff & Phelps, and FTI Consulting have all brought in high-calibre leaders to their Middle East teams recently. According to Bloomberg, the region is set to become a restructuring hotspot – spurred on by rising economic investment, Covid-19’s aftermath, and a growing cultural acceptance for insolvency.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have introduced bankruptcy laws in recent years – paving the way for medium to long term restructuring momentum as well. “The economy has matured a lot compared to a decade ago. One of the lessons learned from 2009, is that limited regulation didn’t provide international investors with sufficient comfort, therefore limiting capital flows. Not anymore,” Jaffar told Bloomberg.