Marka takes majority stake in Dubai indoor play area company

The retailer Marka has acquired a majority stake in a Dubai-based company that provides children’s indoor play areas and entertainment for Dh30 million.

The company bought a 60 per cent stake in Cheeky Monkeys Playland and Sweet Surprises, which has a presence in Al Barsha, Mirdif, Jumeirah Beach Residence and J3 Mall on Al Wasl Road.

Marka said it would take the edutainment brand abroad, opening eight outlets in the Arabian Gulf by 2018.

“We are looking at acquisition targets across sports, fashion and hospitality,” said Khaled Almheiri, vice chairman at Marka. “We pursue a growth strategy focused on acquisitions, franchise agreements and unique retail concepts.”

It has launched four fashion brands in the UAE: Essentiel Antwerp at The Beach near Jumeirah Beach Residence, as well as Weill, Laurèl and Sonia by Sonia Rykiel at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi.

In May it expects to open a casual dining restaurant with the Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck, called Taste of Italy by Heinz Beck. In June, it expects to open a Uefa Champions League Experience concept store that will include casual dining at Yas Mall.

Cheeky Monkeys plans to open new destinations, undertake more events each year and increase services and facilities, according to the company.

Marka acquired Dubai World’s Retailcorp UAE in December from Istithmar for Dh220m. The deal gave Marka ownership of 15 sports shops in UAE malls and has the rights to sell brands such as Nike, Reebok and Puma.

The company went public in June at Dh1 a share, and reported a fourth quarter loss of Dh13.6m. It expects to achieve operational profitability by the end of the year, according to Mr Almheiri.

Marka shares closed down 0.80 per cent at Dh1.24.

As the Russian tourist market shows no signs of recovery, and the weak euro makes Dubai an expensive destination, retailers in the emirate are expected to feel the heat.

“Performance of the retail market is expected to remain stagnant throughout this year, following estimates of a slowdown in retail sales growth figures,” according to first quarter report from the consultancy JLL.

The value of mergers and acquisitions in Middle East this year are expected to at levels similar to last year at US$50.3 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

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