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‘Semsom's CEO ranked #19 Most Powerful Women in Family Businesses in the MENA region’…
‘Semsom's CEO ranked #19 Most Powerful Women in Family Businesses in the MENA region’

This ranking includes family businesses, as well as those set up by enterprising first generation entrepreneurs. To create this ranking we considered privately held companies and used published financial statements and official websites. Each respective company was then contacted and asked to provide further detailed information.
1. Degree of power associated with the position;
2. Years of professional experience;
3. Family generation the individual belongs to (in the case of family businesses only);
4. Individual’s media interaction and online presence;
5. Number of years in operation;
6. Number of countries in which the organization has operations; and
7. Number of employees. - See more at:
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More women are elbowing their way to the top of businesses in the Gulf,…
More women are elbowing their way to the top of businesses in the Gulf, some of the region’s most prominent female executives said ahead of the first Arabian Business Women’s Forum.
Opportunities for women are on the rise with increasing numbers running their own companies or rising to the top in large conglomerates, said Lebanese entrepreneur Christine Sfeir.
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Christine Sfeir certainly puts in the hours. In between raising two young children, the…
Christine Sfeir certainly puts in the hours. In between raising two young children, the 37-year-old Lebanese has also created one of the region’s most successful restaurant empires.
At the age of just 22, she persuaded Dunkin’ Donuts to hand over the company’s Lebanese franchise to her. “It was a huge risk because I was 22, I was female and the idea of American coffee and doughnuts was the last thing on people’s minds. But I had a hunch and a vision.” The rest quickly became, with the franchise becoming a huge success in Beirut. Four years ago, she added the Lebanese brand Semsom to the fold, and has expanded it into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. New outlets are soon to appear in India, with six openings planned for 2012. She now manages a total of 400 staff.
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FFA raising funds for Semsom
Semsom has mandated FFA Private Bank’s Investment Banking division to advise on funding the…
Semsom has mandated FFA Private Bank’s Investment Banking division to advise on funding the company’s expansion into the US market.

“Our plan is to open 200 outlets by 2020 in the American market,” said Christine Sfeir, CEO of Treats Holding, owner of the concept.

To finance its expansion, Semsom is seeking to raise $4 million from new investors as part of a first phase capital injection, with a second phase planned for 2016 to continue its growth.

Julien Khabbaz, Head of Investment Banking at FFA Private Bank said that the second round will get additional $2 million or more. “We have a big chunk of money that will derive from franchisees and from the outlets.” According to FFA, the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is projected at 31 percent and could reach up to 42 percent over a period of seven years.

Khabbaz said that 20 to 40 outlets will be company owned and managed whereas the rest will be franchised but overseen by the company. “Outlets in New York, Boston, and Washington for example will be company owned, whereas the rest, opening in Miami or Texas for instance will be franchised.”

FFA has already started fundraising and the transaction will be closed by mid-April. “The first Semsom outlet will open in New York by Q4 2014,” Khabbaz said.

The US restaurant market lacks a Lebanese cuisine dominant player. As the trend towards healthy ethnic food increases, Semsom is looking to seize the opportunity to become the first Lebanese restaurant chain in the US. “It is the right concept in the right market,” Khabbaz said. According to him, Sfeir has the right procedures which will lead her to reach international success.

In Saudi Arabia, the eatery plans to open an additional branch in Jeddah, to total three. It will also enter Riyadh with two new branches.

The brand accessed the Kuwaiti market for the first time in January. The franchisee is Sabeco, whose managing partner is Lebanese national, Jihad Mekawi. A new entry for Semsom is also expected in Oman. Sfeir said that more outlets are under study and negotiation for the region.

Another food concept by Treats, Green Falafel, will also branch out to Saudi Arabia, in the summer of 2014. “We are through our final negotiation phase to open 15 outlets in 18 months.”
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Semsom pursues the American dream
FFA Private Bank will present local and regional investors an opportunity to invest in…
FFA Private Bank will present local and regional investors an opportunity to invest in the Lebanese food and beverage (F&B) industry this Thursday. Lebanese restaurant chain Semsom is seeking to raise $6 million in equity financing for the new unit, Semsom US, that will drive the chain’s expansion into the United States. The bank says it already has a quarter of their target pledged from investors, but March 13 marks the start of their formal fundraising.

Semsom US will be based in the British Crown dependency of Jersey. The company is planning on raising up to 49 percent of equity in a first round of $4 million by selling common stock shares of Semsom US, with the remainder owned by umbrella holding Treats, which also owns Green Falafel and the Lebanese franchise of Dunkin Donuts. Treats, whose shareholder base consists of Christine Assouad Sfeir, the CEO of all three restaurant chains, and her family, will keep 51 percent equity against a cash injection and in-kind contribution that will cover the cost of franchising in the US territory, the franchising fees for each store, resources and expertise.

Semsom is anticipating opening at least 70 new restaurants by 2020 and twice that in the best-case scenario. Expansion is to be both through company-operated stores and franchised outlets, numbering 20 and 50 respectively in their conservative estimate.

Fundraising from investors is going to be split into two rounds. The first-round target is for $4 million with expectation to close this round by mid-April. Under the financing plan, the investment banking department of FFA Private Bank will handle this round and follow it up with a second round seeking to raise at least another $2 million by 2016.

The deal projects an internal rate of return (IRR) of 31 percent in a conservative scenario given an exit by year seven, and a base-case IRR of 42 percent. Acccording to its fundraising material, the venture expects a positive cash flow by 2016, all of which will be re-invested in the company to drive growth. Investors who invest in the first phase will get priority right to take part in phase two, FFA Private Bank says. They are looking for ticket sizes ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

Land of opportunity

The plan for Semsom US is to open their first restaurant by the end of 2014. The parent company has seen regional growth since it opened its first location in 2008 in Lebanon. Under the management of Treats, the restaurant brand today operates two locations in Lebanon, two in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah and one in Kuwait. They are planning to open in one in Oman, two in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh and a third in Jeddah, and one in the UAE by the end of 2014.

According to Julien Khabbaz, senior manager and head of investment banking at FFA Private Bank, they doubled their projections for profitability in the GCC to a 35 percent EBITDA ratio (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).

Carine Assouad, a shareholder in Treats and the designated managing director of Semsom US, says the company has been attracted to the US market because of its size and its lack of a single dominant Lebanese food chain. Citing the food and beverage (F&B) industry’s market value of $660 billion per year, Assouad adds that Semsom is initially targeting 3 of the 10 cities that they have identified as most lucrative for F&B: New York, Boston, and Washington.

The makers of Semsom have worked for the past six months to adapt their company to consumer trends in the US market. According to Assouad, “ethnic cuisine” is booming in America – where 63 percent of Americans order it more than once a week. They are also witnessing a growing appetite for “fast casual” style food in the states: a cross between dine-in and fast food, which offers premium food and fast service. They are seeking to tap into both of these trends.

FFA is planning on staying on board long term once the funding is closed. They will take a board seat in the company to represent and protect the investors as one block. According to FFA’s Khabbaz the bank has prior experience in fundraising for F&B projects in Africa and have worked with clients in the region, but their experience in fundraising for projects in the US is limited to the film industry.
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Semsom veut lever 6 millions de dollars
La chaîne de restauration libanaise Semsom souhaite inaugurer 100 enseignes aux États-Unis d’ici à…
La chaîne de restauration libanaise Semsom souhaite inaugurer 100 enseignes aux États-Unis d’ici à 2020. Elles seront soit développées en fonds propres (Washington D.C., Boston et New York, où la première enseigne ouvrira fin 2014), soit en franchise (dans le reste des États). Pour financer ces ambitions, Treats Holding SAL, majoritairement détenue par Christine Sfeir, également opératrice de la franchise de Dunkin’ Donuts au Liban, a mandaté FFA Private Bank pour lever six millions de dollars en deux phases auprès de nouveaux investisseurs. « Nous leur proposons une participation d’un montant minimum de 100 000 dollars bloqué sur sept années pour un retour sur investissement moyen espéré de 30 % par an », explique Julien Khabbaz, directeur de la banque d’investissement à la FFA, en charge du montage financier.
« Le marché américain de la restauration qui génère plus de 660 milliards de dollars annuels ne comporte pas d’acteurs-clés en matière de restaurants libanais. Nous voulons saisir cette opportunité et devenir la première chaîne de restauration libanaise aux États-Unis », affirme Christine Sfeir. Le concept de Semsom qui propose une cuisine libanaise “modernisée” répond, selon elle, à une demande grandissante aux États-Unis pour une cuisine saine et ethnique, et sera adapté au marché “fast casual” américain, « le segment le plus dynamique du secteur F&B des États-Unis ».
Présent sur le marché libanais depuis 2008, Semsom a commencé son développement dans la région avec deux enseignes au Liban, deux en Arabie saoudite, une autre au Koweït et une à Oman. Elle souhaite atteindre les quatorze enseignes en Arabie saoudite, quatre au Koweït et à Dubaï et trois à Oman d’ici à 2016.
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La cuisine libanaise
La chaîne de restauration Semsom, spécialisée dans la cuisine libanaise revisitée, s'apprête à se…
La chaîne de restauration Semsom, spécialisée dans la cuisine libanaise revisitée, s'apprête à se lancer sur le marché américain. Le point de départ de cette expansion sera la côte est des États-Unis, à New York précisément.
L'entreprise a mandaté la FFA Private Bank (division de banque d'investissement) afin de la conseiller sur le financement de cette expansion.
Une conférence de presse a pris place hier dans les locaux de la FFA au centre-ville de Beyrouth afin d'annoncer le lancement de l'opération, en présence du PDG de la banque, Jean Riachi, de la PDG de la compagnie-mère de Semsom, Treats, Christine Assouad Sfeir (Dunkin' Donuts, Green Falafel), de la responsable des opérations de la chaîne aux USA, Carine E. Assouad, et du responsable de la division de banque d'investissement à la FFA, Julien Khabbaz.
Dans les détails, l'objectif de Semsom est de lever dans un premier temps 4 millions de dollars auprès de nouveaux investisseurs. Cette première phase sera suivie d'une seconde en 2016. « Le taux de rendement est projeté à 31 % (scénario conservateur) mais pourrait atteindre les 42 % sur une période de sept ans », a indiqué M. Khabbaz.
Le but du jeu sera « de lever un total de 6 millions de dollars (en deux phases) et de voir naître une centaine de restaurants d'ici à 2020 », dont un certain nombre de franchises, a précisé Mme Assouad Sfeir.
Générant des revenus de plus de 660 milliards de dollars annuellement, le marché américain de la restauration ne comporte pas d'acteur libanais significatif, a souligné Carine E. Assouad. « Et le marché du "fast casual", – une catégorie plus haut de gamme et plus saine, intermédiaire entre le fast-food et la restauration dite traditionnelle, à laquelle appartient Semsom – connaît une croissance à deux chiffres, la plus rapide aux États-Unis, depuis les 10 dernières années », a-t-elle relevé.
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click here to watch Carine Assouad on Future TV
click here to watch Carine Assouad on Future TV
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