By Muhammad Shoaib Suleman, Director, Governance, Risk & Compliance Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC
The Middle East’s largest developer of integrated theme park resort Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC is opening in October this year with the first LEGOLAND® park in the region among its six experiences.
Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC’s motiongate™ Dubai brings Hollywood to the city, while Bollywood Parks™ Dubai is a first-of-its-kind entertainment destination that will showcase the authentic Bollywood movie experience. LEGOLAND® Dubai will open together with a LEGOLAND® Water Park, while the LapitaTM Hotel and RiverlandTM will offer a retail, dining and entertainment walkway.
Being at the forefront of the region’s leisure and entertainment industry, we believe in setting the standard for corporate governance in this sector. Good corporate governance is an essential component of a successful and sustainable entity with long-term benefits to shareholders, stakeholders and the wider community.
As recognition of the highest corporate governance standards we hold ourselves to, Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC has been awarded the Ethical Boardroom 2016 Award for Best Corporate Governance in the Leisure and Entertainment Sector in the Middle East. This award, in addition to being recognition, also provides indicators that the company is clearly on the right track with implementing its governance goals.
As a publicly listed entity, we are cognisant of our responsibilities to our shareholders and our efforts are focussed towards delivering value to our shareholders, as well as stakeholders, in a transparent manner as set out in our internal policies and practices, while complying with the wide range of regulations and adopting international best practice with respect to corporate governance. Receiving this award is an encouragement, providing us with an assurance that we are on track to creating a sustainable corporate governance model that will raise the bar for the region.
Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC follows a tailor-made corporate governance philosophy that has been integrated into every aspect of the company’s day-to-day business practices. The philosophy is steered through guiding principles that fall under the following five pillars:
Commitment to corporate governance
Inspired by global examples, we are committed to corporate governance policies and procedures that go beyond the mandatory requirements and which are in line with international best practices, tailored to the specific aspects of the entertainment and leisure destination’s diverse divisions. We don’t consider corporate governance to be just a box-checking exercise and believe that we have adopted and implemented corporate governance frameworks that add value to our business in a manner that is practicable and sustainable.
The various facets of this implementation starts with the ‘tone at the top’. The board of directors recognises its responsibility towards establishing a corporate governance framework and cascading its vision to all its employees and stakeholders. The board has put in place a corporate governance manual where the company’s governance priorities have been defined specifically with guidance on how to implement the best practices within the company. The company also has a code of conduct in place for board members and employees to abide by, as well as policies on subjects, such as shares dealing, conflict of interests and dealing with related parties.
Board of directors
The board of directors takes the lead in guiding the company towards greater transparency by being committed to applying standards of corporate governance that are in line with global examples, including within the composition of the board itself. Currently, the board comprises one-third independent directors with majority non-executive directors. Members are chosen for their experience, including that relevant to Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC’s core entertainment and leisure offering.
Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC has developed and implemented a precise internal control system that aims to develop an assessment of its risk management means and measures, sound application of governance rules, verification of compliance by the company and its employees with applicable laws, regulations and resolutions that govern its operations, as well as internal procedures and policies and review of financial information.
Our internal control department adheres to the relevant professional standards, including that of the Institute of Internal Auditors. Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC also has a dedicated governance risk and compliance department that is responsible for implementing corporate governance initiatives, application of risk management activities and oversees compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
Transparency, disclosures and investor relations
Since becoming a listed company on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) in December 2014, Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC follows the directives of Dubai Financial Market and the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority, as well as adhering to international best practices. The company website is regularly updated and provides timely information on all company press releases, regulatory announcements as well as a calendar of shareholder events in order to ensure investors and the market remain informed about activities and developments that have a potential impact on share price.
We also publish a comprehensive corporate governance report, that covers all pertinent disclosures, including the company’s internal control systems, board and board committee composition among others, with a plan to perform board and board committee evaluations in future. Corporate governance paves the way to a sustainable corporate future and transparency is one of the approaches to ensure we build and retain the trust of our guests, investors, partners and colleagues.
Shareholder and stakeholder rights
The company has adopted a stakeholder inclusive governance approach, whereby interests of the stakeholders are given priority when suggesting enhancements to our existing governance framework. Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC has issued only one class of shares having equal rights assigned to all shareholders.
We have a vision for Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC as a premier global entertainment destination. In line with this vision and an ongoing commitment to protecting the environment, health and safety of the company’s employees, visitors and vendors, Dubai Parks and Resorts has earned three certifications: ISO 14001 – Environmental Management; OHSAS 18001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management; and ISO 9001 – Quality Management for certain areas of our operations. Our strategy is to expand these as the parks and the associated facilities open in the near future.
We also aim to provide job opportunities to the local community and our intention is to attract up to 1,000 Emirati nationals to Dubai Parks and Resorts. The company is an equal opportunity employer and shall ensure that diversity in the workplace is embraced.
Turning our vision into reality requires integrating sound practices with regards to environmental, health and safety management. This is significant in order for us to become a leading provider of world-class leisure and entertainment destinations, while conserving the environment and safeguarding our business for future generations.
The milestones reached so far mark only the beginning of Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC’s achievements in the field of corporate governance. While the company has benchmarked its existing frameworks and practices with international standards, it recognises that corporate governance is a constantly evolving practice and will therefore continue to develop and enhance its practices and policies. We also believe in having regular governance-related training and development programmes for our board of directors, as an example of good governance.
Our commitment is to maintain and enhance our company’s transparency and disclosures, brand image and investor confidence. Through a thoroughly committed approach, Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC intends to enhance its corporate governance policies to ensure that all the stakeholders, including our guests whom we plan to welcome later this year, and our investors, benefit from being associated with us in the long term.
Winning the prestigious Ethical Boardroom 2016 Award for Best Corporate Governance – Leisure and Entertainment Middle East marks an important milestone in Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC’s corporate and governance achievements. It is especially gratifying to know that a thorough analysis of our governance frameworks and practices, which was carried out by an independent panel of leading governance expert jurists, led to Dubai Parks and Resorts PJSC being recognised as the leader in our sector in the Middle East region.
We will continue to refine our governance strategy as our company grows.
About the Author:
Muhammad Suleman is the Director of Governance, Risk and Compliance and is responsible for developing and implementing corporate governance and risk management framework. He also oversees the Group’s compliance with applicable policies, procedures and regulations.
Mr. Suleman’s expertise lies in governance, risk advisory, corporate compliance, policies development, business process review and assessment of design and operating effectiveness of the internal controls. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Suleman served as the Senior Manager – Governance for the Engineer’s Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum responsible for the development of its governance and control framework. Earlier, Mr. Suleman worked with KPMG (Dubai Office) as part of the Assurance & Business Advisory Services division focusing on statutory audits for a wide range of global clients. He also managed the Sarbanes-Oxley compliance audits of the US SEC-registered clients.