Abu Dhabi's Khidmah to more than double lifeguards

The Abu Dhabi-based buildings and maintenance company Khidmah is paddling ahead with plans to more than double the size of its lifeguard operation as property businesses attempt to splash out into new business areas at a time when prices and rents are sinking.

At Cityscape yesterday the company, which is 60 per cent owned by Aldar, said it planned to increase the number of lifeguards it employs from 210 at the moment to more than 500 by the end of the year as the company looks to maximise alternative revenues during the property downturn.

“Khidmah is a very opportunistic company. We started off identifying a need to employ lifeguards in our own communities in Abu Dhabi. In just a few years that small segment became a business unit with its own P&L and now it makes up one of the branches of our business,” said Abdulla Al Qamzi, the Khidmah managing director.

“We’ve expanded from Abu Dhabi communities to winning a tender to supply lifeguards for the Dubai public beaches last year. We’re currently in the process of expanding the business to all the public beaches of the emirate of Sharjah and by the end of the year we hope to start supplying lifeguards in Saudi Arabia too.”

Khidmah, which started operating in Saudi Arabia two years ago where it currently only provides technical support services such as snagging and heavy-duty maintenance, is currently negotiating a deal to supply 110 lifeguards to work in pools and healthclubs for one major Saudi landlord. Snagging is an expression widely used in the construction industry to define the process of inspection necessary to compile a list of minor defects or omissions in building works for the contractor to rectify.

Khidmah was established as an in house management company in April 2009 as a joint venture between Sorouh (an Abu Dhabi developer that later merged with Aldar) and Dubai-based Capital Investment.

However, since then Khidmah has found a niche for itself in the Abu Dhabi market and has taken on more work for other property companies.

Mr Al Qamzi said the company had grown from employing five people in Abu Dhabi in 2009 to employing about 4,000 in all seven emirates and abroad this year.

Following the global financial crisis, UAE developers including Emaar, Deyaar, Omniyat, Union Properties and Nakheel have set up their own facilities and property maintenance companies offering services including pampering guests at trendy health clubs to meals on wheels as they looked for other sources of revenue and to reduce their own maintenance costs.

In 2014 Aldar announced it was considering spinning off Khidmah through an IPO. However, since then the company has remained tight-lipped about these plans and Khidmah declined to comment on whether they were still being considered.

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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