Gulfmena CEO Arabi Steps Down as Proprietary Funds Shut

Haissam Arabi, chief executive officer and founder of Gulfmena Investments Ltd., will step down as the company closes its proprietary funds and adopts a new strategy after losses in a main vehicle.

Marc Hambach, chief operating officer at the company based in the Dubai International Financial Centre, will take over as interim CEO effective Feb. 1, Arabi said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News today. The Gulfmena Opportunities Fund Ltd. and Gulfmena Access Fund will close as the company seeks to focus on institutions, ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices, he added.

The Gulfmena Opportunities Fund, which focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, fell each year since 2010 with a retreat of 3.6 percent in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The change in Gulfmena’s strategy comes after the number of brokerages in the United Arab Emirates more than halved to 48 since 2008 amid lower trading volumes and a drought in initial public offerings.

“The past five years have been very difficult for the asset management industry in particular and the financial industry in general,” said Mohammed Ali Yasin, managing director of Abu Dhabi Financial Services Co., the brokerage unit of National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC. “Even though the equity markets picked up in 2012, it was grueling few years.”

Dubai’s benchmark DFM General Index, which was the best performer in the Gulf Cooperation Council region last year, is still 79 percent below its peak in 2005. Average trading volume for the gauge rose 60 percent to 160 million shares in 2012 -- about half the volume traded in 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Gulfmena Investments will focus on offering services including sponsoring of DIFC funds, structuring and “domiciliation of carefully selected managers,” according to the e-mail from Arabi today. It will continue to offer investment management services, he said.