Ex-AIG asset management giant heads to Abu Dhabi

A $78bn global asset management company, reborn from AIG Investments as PineBridge Investments, is planning to set up shop in the capital as it expands in the Middle East.

PineBridge Investments, a global asset management company with about $78 billion under its control, plans to open an office in Abu Dhabi's new financial district.

The move is part of a regional expansion for PineBridge after its sale by the US insurer AIG in March. The company had planned to grow its presence in the Middle East since before the financial crisis and add to an office it has had in Dubai for about four years, Win Neuger, the chief executive said.

"We got interrupted for two years in terms of a lot of things we were working on," Mr Neuger said in Abu Dhabi today.

PineBridge, formerly called AIG Investments, operates in 32 countries and manages assets for both institutional and individual investors. It has made big hires recently, including Mervyn Davies, the former Standard Chartered chairman and minister of trade in Gordon Brown's government. They also took on Marcelle Wahba, the US ambassador to the UAE between 2001 and 2004, to advise on GCC countries.

"As an investor we think the opportunities in the region are increasing significantly," Mr Neuger said. "If we go back prior to 10 years ago the opportunities were all in the energy sector, and that was really locked up by the state-owned companies and the multinational oil companies ... I think that's changing very significantly right now, and I think it's changing because of the growth of a meaningful middle class in the region and more and more of an effort by most of the countries in the region to diversify their economies and doing some really interesting things."

Existing relationships with the region's sovereign wealth funds were another reason to grow PineBridge's network of offices in the Middle East, he said.

"We want and traditionally have always wanted to be close to our clients in terms of where we have offices," he said. "We look to put more people where we have clients and where we have prospective clients."

PineBridge's sale to Pacific Century Group for $277 million plus other consideration based on performance was completed in March. Pacific Century, a private equity firm, is owned by Richard Li, a wealthy Hong Kong entrepreneur.

AIG sold PineBridge to help repay government bailout money. The insurance giant received support of up to $182.5 billion from the US government following a liquidity crisis touched off when credit ratings agencies downgraded it in September of 2008. In exchange for its help, the government took a 77.9 per cent stake in the company.

AIG has also sold American Life Insurance Company, its main foreign insurance arm, for $16.2 billion to MetLife, a transaction that was completed on Monday.

The initial public offering of American International Assurance Group, an Asian insurance and asset management firm, generated $20.51 billion on Sunday. AIG decided to list the business after a sale to the UK's Prudential fell through.

It also sold its stake in Transatlantic Holdings, a reinsurance company, for $452m in March.