Kuwaiti creditor said to refuse Abraaj deal, may prompt provisional liquidation

Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi stepped aside from investment decisions earlier this year, following allegations of the misuse of $200 million worth of funds. (Getty Images)
Updated 06 June 2018
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Kuwaiti creditor said to refuse Abraaj deal, may prompt provisional liquidation

  • Refusal draws firm nearer provisional liquidation
  • Abraaj seeks standstill agreement

A Kuwaiti creditor is refusing to agree to a debt settlement deal with Abraaj, which could push the private equity firm to seek provisional liquidation, three sources close to the matter said.

The refusal by Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security (PIFSS) to join other creditors in a debt freeze may complicate Abraaj’s efforts to sell its investment management unit to New York-based Cerberus Capital Management, the sources told Reuters.

Abraaj, which bankers estimate has debt of about $1 billion, is already grappling with allegations that it misused investor money. The Middle East and Africa’s largest private equity firm has denied any wrongdoing.

Two sources said Abraaj had started preparations for applying for provisional liquidation, a process in which a court appoints a liquidator on a provisional basis before hearing or ruling on a petition to wind up a company.

A separate source close to Abraaj said that a provisional liquidation was not its focus and it was working on reaching a consensual deal with secured and unsecured creditors.
Abraaj said in a statement to Reuters that it was continuing to engage closely with a single creditor, which it did not name, “to reach a consensual outcome for the benefit of all parties.”

“The firm is continuing its discussions on the sale of the fund management business and talks are at an advanced stage,” Abraaj said, adding it was working with potential acquirers and other stakeholders “toward achieving a positive outcome.”

Abraaj, which is being advised by Houlihan Lokey, said it was focused on concluding a standstill agreement with creditors, saying the “vast majority” of them backed the debt deal.

Sources said the standstill agreement was needed to help facilitate the sale of its investment management business to Cerberus. But sources said PIFSS, an unsecured lender, held out and was given a 48-hour deadline to agree.

The Kuwaiti fund has since notified Abraaj that it intended to continue a winding up petition it filed through the Cayman Islands last month, the sources said. The next hearing in the process is scheduled for June 29, one of the sources said.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that PIFSS filed a case in a Cayman Islands court against Abraaj, claiming it was unable to repay a $100 million loan and $7 million interest.

Officials at PIFSS were not immediately available for comment. Its management has previously declined to comment on an ongoing legal action.

A sale of the Kuwaiti creditor’s position to debt funds could help overcome the impasse in the process, the sources said.

A number of distressed debt buyers had emerged to potentially buy the Kuwaiti creditor’s claim, two sources said, but they said PIFSS was not willing to sell.
Cerberus, which manages assets totalling more than $30 billion, specializes in investments in distressed assets. The US company has not responded to Reuters requests for comment.

Abraaj is facing an investigation by some investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank’s lending arm over how the firm used some of their money in its $1 billion health care fund.


Is the Dubai economy turning the corner?

Updated 1 min 57 sec ago
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Is the Dubai economy turning the corner?

Is the Dubai economy finally turning the corner? At least one major international bank thinks so.

It follows a move by the emirate's leadership to reboot an economy that has been hit hard by corporate job losses, the introduction of VAT and a slowing real estate sector.

The UAE’s non-oil economy is likely to “turn a corner” next year with Dubai’s Expo 2020 infrastructure projects, changes to visa rules and increased government spending set to boost growth, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) research note.

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s (ADNOC) downstream expansion plans are also expected to drive the country’s non-oil GDP growth, said the note compiled by Middle East and North Africa (MENA) economist Jean Michel Saliba.

The Gulf country’s real GDP growth is estimated to rise to 3.5 percent in 2019 from a forecast 2.8 percent increase this year and a 1.9 percent increase in 2017, said the note published on Thursday.

Buoyed by a recovery in oil prices, Abu Dhabi approved a 50 billion dirham ($13.6 billion) three-year stimulus package in early June, which BofAML estimated could add 0.4 percentage points to non-oil GDP growth.

ADNOC’s $45 billion five-year downstream investment plan — revealed in May — is estimated to add a further 1.1 percentage point to the emirate’s non-oil growth, the report said.

The Expo 2020 event in Dubai could drive up GDP growth by 2 percentage points between 2020 and 2021, the report said, by boosting job creation, consumption and tourist numbers.

Given the improvement in oil prices, the cost of Abu Dhabi’s stimulus spending is considered “financeable” by BofAML, while Dubai’s spending plans are said to be “modest.”

Recent structural reforms, including plans to introduce long-term expatriate visas for up to 10 years, could help to boost the UAE’s population and consumer demand, the note said.

“The new UAE long-term and temporary visa system should facilitate retention of white-collar expatriates,” it said.

“As we expect longer-term visas not to be linked to continued employment, this may increase expatriate incentives to acquire property and support real estate demand.”

The UAE announced in May that it would allow 100 percent foreign ownership of UAE companies in specific industries by the end of the year, a move that could give a welcome boost to foreign direct investment in the country.

A new UAE-wide insurance scheme may provide a one-time boost to corporate profits, the note said.

The UAE cabinet approved plans in June for the insurance scheme to replace the previous system whereby employers had to provide a monetary guarantee to cover each of their workforce.

The move is likely to free up capital that companies could choose to sit on or to reinvest, BofAML said.

“Should corporates invest, we estimate this could lead to a one-off 0.1percentage point boost to UAE non-hydrocarbon real GDP growth,” the report said.