When Germany’s Federal Minister of Economy and Technology, H.E. Karl- Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, travelled to the United Arab Emirates on May 9th 2009, he was accompanied by officials and a top level delegation of German companies from engineering, machinery and equipment construction, waste management, industrial gases, chemicals and petrochemicals, banking and other sectors.
The main purpose of the minister’s visit was the official inauguration of the German-Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Trade (AHK). The following day on May 10th 2009, the minister chaired a two hour round table discussion on cross border investments between the UAE and Germany. The discussion was designed to share experiences and opinions between the German delegation and its counterparts from the UAE. The recent acquisition of MAN Ferrostahl by IPIC and the investment of Abaar in Daimler were presented by the respective spokesmen of IPIC and Abaar. The participants discussed further sectors of cross border investments, the possibility for further cross border transactions even into smaller, mid-cap companies, as well as the possibility for a more active knowledge transfer from Germany to the UAE. The discussion was followed by a luncheon with ample opportunity to network.
FCF supported the AHK by inviting UAE top ranking companies from different sectors such as precast building elements, recycling and waste management, shipping, IT and private equity. FCF facilitated a first time meeting between a German specialist in waste management and a large UAE company establishing a waste management service for the UAE. Both companies identified fields of mutual interest and started working out ways of cooperation.
Several key takeaways emerged from the two day Geman-Arab event: Politicians have undoubtedly a very important role as door-openers, especially in countries where business and politics are as tightly interlinked as in all GCC countries. In the GCC the majority of politicians are also stakeholders in family conglomerates, hence good political ties may very well trigger interest on the business level.
However, these potential interests need to be continuously developed in a skillfull manner for them to eventually materialize. German companies who initially benefit from high level door openers during those political visits are well advised to prepare themselves for detailed discussions with their counterparts, gaining an understanding of their business partners and developing concrete and serious proposals for joint business opportunities.