Arabtec faces share inquiry

The Dubai Financial Market is reviewing what it considers abnormal share price movements in Arabtec Holding.

A businessman watches the trading figures at the entrance to the Dubai Financial Market, at the Dubai World Trade Centre, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2009. Nakheel PJSC creditors may win the right to seize a strip of barren waterfront land the size of Manhattan if the company defaults on the $3.5 billion bond backing the development. Photographer: Charles Crowell/Bloomberg *** Local Caption ***  603417.jpg *** Local Caption ***  603417.jpg
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The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) is reviewing what it considers abnormal share price movements in Arabtec Holding before Aabar Investments said last week it would acquire 70 per cent of the company. Rumours of the deal helped to send Arabtec's stock more than 30 per cent higher in the two weeks before the planned acquisition was announced.

But shares in the UAE's largest construction company fell 6.9 per cent yesterday amid investor concerns that the company could be hurt by future losses on contracts as a result of the slowdown in the region's building industry. Aabar announced on Friday that it would buy the Dh6.4 billion (US$1.74bn) stake using a convertible bond at Dh2.3 per share. That is a 20.4 per cent discount to Arabtec's closing price on Thursday.

The deal still needs the backing of 75 per cent of Arabtec's shareholders and approval from government regulators before going through. As rumours of the acquisition spread near the end of last month, Arabtec said it was "unaware" of the reasons behind its rising stock price. Aabar issued a statement on January 3 denying the investment. That prompted the Dubai bourse to look into the share dealings.

"It's a normal review of trade and activity in stocks over the last 15 days to see if there are any irregular movements as per the rules of DFM," said a spokesman at the exchange. Riad Kamal, the chief executive of Arabtec, said "the DFM has to do what it has to do". "If they uncover anything wrong, then that's perfect for everybody," he added. Majed Azzam, a property analyst at Al Futtaim HC Securities, said the deal would dilute the value of Arabtec shareholders' stake.

"It is a positive deal in that Abu Dhabi is pumping money into a Dubai company, making sure they stay solvent, while the negative is the dilution to shareholders. But the question now is will Aabar bring enough big projects to the table to compensate for the dilution?" "The fact that the offer entails a discount - could be seen as an indicator of a larger than previously anticipated hit on Arabtec's Dubai receivables," said Shuaa Capital analysts, who estimated that the Dh2.3 price implied additional impairments for Arabtec of Dh1.7bn.

Arabtec, which has expanded into new markets including Russia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, has said it would turn its main focus to other locations including Abu Dhabi, where it won contracts last year. "The size of the funds that Arabtec would receive would be useful to tide through any liquidity concerns that may worsen, which have already affected Arabtec in 2009," said the investment bank EFG-Hermes.

Arabtec will become part of a growing property division within Aabar, which bought two plots in Al Raha district near the Abu Dhabi International Airport in November 2008 for Dh500 million. The company plans to develop up to four residential towers there. It also acquired 12 towers to be developed on six lots on Reem Island in Abu Dhabi for Dh5bn last February, and 14 more plots in Abu Dhabi last year for Dh2.7bn.

The International Petroleum Investment Company, a government energy investment fund, assumed majority ownership of Aabar in March last year. Aabar also has a major stake in the championship winning Brawn GP Formula One team. The company's stock gained 4.6 per cent yesterday. * with Reuters