U.A.E. Port Operator Gulftainer Seeks Six-Fold Sales Increase

Gulftainer Co., a port operator based in the United Arab Emirates, plans to triple by 2020 the number of terminals it manages and the amount of cargo it handles.

“We intend to be among the top six port operators in the world,” Managing Director Peter Richards said in an interview. Gulftainer, which said today it will adopt the brand name GT, wants to boost revenue by 500 percent by the end of the decade, said Richards, who spoke Dec. 12 before the re-branding announcement.

Gulftainer has a target of operating 35 shipping terminals, up from 11 now, boosting the amount of cargo it handles to 18 million twenty-foot equivalent units from 6.5 million this year, Richards said. A TEU is a standard industry measure for cargo handled in ports. Gulftainer, part of the Crescent Group based in the U.A.E. sheikhdom of Sharjah, is privately owned and doesn’t release revenue figures, Richards said.

The company competes with larger rivals such as DP World Ltd., the world’s third-biggest ports operator, which runs more than 65 terminals on six continents. DP World said in August it expects to have capacity of about 85 million TEU globally in 2015. Shipping and port companies have struggled amid sluggish trade growth after the global economic slump.

Gulftainer has ports and logistics operations in the U.A.E., Iraq, Russia, Lebanon and Brazil, as well as ventures in Turkey and Pakistan. It bought majority control in June of three terminals in Saudi Arabia. The company is looking for “niche” opportunities in Asia, Latin America and states in the former Soviet Union, Richards said.

“Mainly it will be acquiring already operating assets,” Richards said of the company’s strategy. Gulftainer may try to raise funds with partners case by case or if it takes on acquisitions of more than $100 million, he said.

Badr Jafar, Gulftainer’s vice chairman, said in May the company plans to invest $500 million over two years to expand in Russia and Saudi Arabia. The company will invest $150 million over five years in Sharjah and the U.A.E., where it expects to raise capacity to 8 million TEU by 2015, Jafar said in June.

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