Dubai’s Vista Global agrees to buy Uber-style private jet booker

Updated 10 April 2019

Dubai’s Vista Global agrees to buy Uber-style private jet booker

  • Equity swap expected to close by second quarter
  • Vista competes with Warren Buffett's NetJets

LONDON: Dubai-based Vista Global has agreed to buy JetSmarter which allows well-heeled travelers to book private jets on demand.
Vista Global, headquartered at the Dubai International Financial Center and run by the Swiss billionaire Thomas Flohr, is acquiring the US company for an undisclosed sum.
He said: “Customers today want speed, reliability and value, which in today’s world is only possible with technology.”
The acquisition underscores a trend of moving away from private jet ownership globally as more people choose to buy flying hours instead.
The Middle East has traditionally been a strong market for private jet operators with the Dubai Airshow a popular parade ring for planemakers and private jet charter companies.
But a regional economic slowdown, especially in the oil and gas sector, has hurt underlying demand for private jet services.
Founded in 2012, JetSmarter had planned to IPO and was valued at $1.6 billion just three years ago, but has since faced tough trading.
The equity swap deal is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2019 and it means that JetSmarter investors that include Clearlake Capital and Jefferies Financial Group will now become investors in Vista Global.
Vista competes with NetJets, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway empire.


Lebanon’s top banker linked to offshores with $100 million in assets

Updated 38 min 31 sec ago

Lebanon’s top banker linked to offshores with $100 million in assets

  • No question of criminality raised as scrutiny increases on country’s elite amid financial meltdown and Beirut explosion

DUBAI: Offshore companies linked to Lebanon’s central bank governor own assets worth nearly $100 million, a media group has said in a report, as his role in Lebanon’s economic turmoil comes under intense scrutiny.

The companies tied to Riad Salameh invested in real estate in the UK, Germany and Belgium over the past decade according to a report by a collective of European news outlets called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a nonprofit media organization, and its Lebanese partner, Daraj.com.

The report by the Sarajevo-based OCCRP does not allege any wrongdoing by Salameh, and Reuters has not reviewed any of the documents on which the report is based.

Responding to the report, Salemeh told Reuters he had declared during a TV interview in April his net worth prior to becoming a governor in 1993 and it was $23 million.

“I have shown the supporting documents as a proof. This to eliminate doubts on the origin of my net worth and that it was prior to holding office,” he said.

He said he had previously stated that he asked professionals and trustees to manage his net worth. “The origin of my net worth is clear, this is the important matter,” he said.

Salameh, previously seen as a guarantor of financial stability in the country, has become a focus of anger for street protesters since Lebanon’s financial system collapsed earlier this year under the weight of one of the world’s biggest public debt burdens.

The report into his personal wealth comes at a sensitive time for the country, as Lebanon grapples with the aftermath of an enormous chemical explosion that devastated the capital Beirut, fueling public anger with the country’s leadership.

The OCCRP report also comes after central bank accounts seen by Reuters last month revealed that Lebanon’s central bank governor inflated the institution’s assets by over $6 billion in 2018, showing the extent of financial engineering used to help prop up the Lebanese economy.

The governor told Reuters last month that the central bank accounting was in line with policies approved by the board.

A Lebanese judge last month ordered a protective freeze on some assets held by the governor after ruling in favor of a complaint that he had allegedly undermined the financial standing of the state.

By the end of 2018, Salameh’s assets were worth more than $94 million, the report said, citing balance sheets of Luxembourg companies controlled by the governor.

Salameh said his declaration on his net worth demonstrated he was not trying to escape public scrutiny and was the proof he has “nothing to hide.”