The UAE’s leading businessmen have confirmed their interest in exploring Nigerian market by investing in various economic sectors following the fruitful discussions at a business network meeting with visiting high-profile trade delegation from the African country last week. The exclusive meeting, hosted by Mulk Holdings and Icons Club and attended by 30 most prominent businessmen of the region, discussed the trade and investment opportunities in the lucrative markets of Nigeria. The business heads of at least 10 leading groups, who held one-to-one meeting with Nigerian trade team, showed the interest to expand their business in the African country. Mulk Holdings, Danube Building Materials and many other Icons members expressed their firm interest to invest in key economic sectors of Nigeria. Freddy Sidhwa of Seven Seas Ship Chandeliers will explore shipping; IP Khaitan, chairman, Khaitan Holdings, shows interest in mining and Arif Naqvi seeks to invest in airport management and duty-free venture. Moreover, Fakhruddin Ajmal of Ajmal Perfumes, eyes perfumes manufacturing and setting up of distribution network, Hassan Darvesh will invest in building materials and Ashok Puri of MGT Group shows interest in government supplies and infrastructure development. Other leading business houses like ETA group represented by Salauddin and Arif Rehman, Vasu Shrof of Regal Group and Shyam Bhatia of Alam Traders, have also shown their keen interest to explore the Nigerian market to expand their businesses in Africa. “Icons will organise a local delegation’s visit to Nigeria by the end of August to take this business discourse to the next level,” Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, chairman of Mulk Holdings and Icons, told Khaleej Times on Saturday. He said former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, who was leading the Nigerian trade team, gave a personal assurance that proposed Icons delegation’s visit will be given presidential preference and all relevant ministries will be made available to meet and take the proposals forward. Nigerian minister of tourism and culture Eden Duke also confirmed that he will personally receive the Icons delegation. “The meeting was a great success. The occasion could be marked as an eye opener for businesses that so far have been ignorant on potential of rapid growing countries in Africa,” he said. He said Nigeria has become one of the fastest growing economies of the world as a consequence it offers billions of dollars worth of investment potential. “Since the market is so welcoming with promising ROI opportunities in various economic sectors, I personally feel the UAE business houses can grab as much as they can afford to invest in them.” Shaji Ul Mulk said hotel and tourism, manufacturing and trading, building materials, mining, oil and gas, infrastructure, solar energy and healthcare are the potential sectors for investment in Nigeria. “Icons will now invite prominent business houses for their participation in this delegation inclusive of organisations who have already expressed their firm interests to join the visiting group,” he said. “At Icons, one of the club’s main objectives is to facilitate business opportunities through series of such business networking events, such events form a significant part of Icons calendar and we are looking forward to hosting them whenever opportunities arise,” Shaji Ul Mulk said. In reply to a question, he said Mulk Holdings is certainly keen on stepping into African markets by making its presence in Nigeria. “Key interests will be in setting up manufacturing plants for Alubond composite panels, recycled plastics, healthcare and solar ?energy,” he added. Rizwan Sajan, chairman, Danube Building Materials and founder member, Icons, echoed the same views and said his company will explore the Nigerian market. “Yes, we are definitely considering investing in Nigeria. We plan to invest about $10-25 million depending on the size of the market and the potential we will see after visiting the country. Our preferred area will be Lagos.” To a question about the talks with Nigerian trade delegation, he said the meeting was very good. “I believe this was a good initiative taken by Shaji Ul Mulk and the Icons Club and I feel very positive towards Nigeria because of the presentation given by the honorable minister Eden Duke and the former Nigerian president,” he said. In reply to a question about the Danube business this year, he said: “Danube business in 2012 has been very good. In the first quarter, we have completed our target of 25 per cent growth, which we had anticipated this year, as a lot of projects have been revived and we have a positive feeling towards 2012.” “The second quarter also looks good so far, and the third quarter could be slow because of holy month of Ramadan and summer holidays. But nevertheless, I am sure we will be able to cover up in the fourth quarter,” he added. About the expansion plan, Sajan said: “Danube’s expansion plans are going ahead in the same way as we had projected earlier. We are planning to open eight to 10 stores this year. We are concentrating more on expansion in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and African countries,” he explained.