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After Travelex Buy, UAE Exchange Founder Eyes India Expansion

Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty moved to the United Arab Emirates from India nearly 40 years ago and made his fortune by building a hospital chain and money exchange group from scratch. Last week, he bought Travelex, the foreign exchange operator, for an undisclosed sum but what is likely the biggest investment of his career.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Shetty said he plans to grow Travelex in tandem with developing his UAE Exchange’s India franchise, pouring back some of the money he made into his country of origin.

UAE Exchange last year applied for a banking license in India which Mr. Shetty expects to obtain soon. Once the license is awarded, Mr. Shetty plans a significant upgrade of his exchange business’ network there, reaching out to areas where people lack access to basic banking services.

“As and when the Reserve Bank of India reopens the licensing process, I’m very confident I will get the license. We will go to the market and go to the under-banked people, the remote areas of India for the customers,” Mr. Shetty said, adding India was gradually opening up and becoming more successful in tackling issues like bureaucracy and corruption. UAE Exchange, which says it handles about 10% of all remittances flowing into India, already has 350 branches in the country, a number that it wants to expand to 850 in the next 5 years.

Mr. Shetty is also chief executive of NMC Health, which listed on the London exchange in 2012. On top of this, he has interests in a raft of smaller companies, including a food and hospitality firm.

Most recently, Mr. Shetty -with the help of Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Centurion- acquired Travelex from private equity group Apax and other investors. Centurion, which also invested in NMC and UAE Exchange, is controlled by Saeed Bin Butti Al Qubaisi, whose family has long held close ties with Mr. Shetty.

“We will look after it, we will grow it, expand it and continue to support the strategy plan put in place by the existing management. I’m not a private equity man and there are no plans to sell the business.”

Looking forward, Mr. Shetty said he may consider further investments into the two sectors that form the foundation of his collection of businesses: medical care and financial services.

“Any opportunity I’m up for it. As long as it is in my line of business.”

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(via WSJ Blogs)

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