Masharie of Dubai nears Dh200m of deals

Masharie, a buyout firm in Dubai, is eying Dh200m of new investments at a time when many competitors are retrenching.

Masharie is investing Dh200 million in three businesses including a glass company. Satish Kumar / The National
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Masharie, the private-equity arm of Dubai Investments, is finalising about Dh200 million (US$54.4m) of investments in three companies, bucking a recent slowdown in regional deals.

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A fourth planned investment, however, has been shelved because of recent unrest in the Middle East, Abdulaziz bin Yagub al Serkal, its chief executive, said yesterday.

"We are about to acquire three projects, one of them in the catering business - air flight catering - and the other one is oil and gas, and the third one will be glass," Mr al Serkal said, adding that the deals might be finalised this month. "The fourth one we are putting it on hold due to the things that are going on in the Arab world," he said. "We are waiting and watching what's going to happen."

Globally, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity is on the rebound as companies begin to spend cash hoarded during the downturn.

Easy financing and low prevailing interest rates have also helped to stimulate buyouts, such as the US telecommunications giant AT&T's US$39 billion bid for its rival T-Mobile this year.

Deals totalling $940.65bn were announced worldwide in the first quarter of this year, according to the research company Bureau van Dijk.

However, uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, civil war in Libya, and simmering unrest in Syria and Yemen have put the brakes on M&A in the Middle East this year, with only $3.59bn of deals announced in the first quarter. That is about 22 per cent down from the previous quarter.

Antoine Drean, the founder and chief executive of Triago, which advises private-equity companies on fund-raising and secondary market transactions, said better days lay ahead for the region.

"Deal-making is on hold for the moment, even if global M&A is picking up," he said. "However, optimism about Middle Eastern growth prospects is still intact. You've got a number of big guns that are still bullish on the region."

Masharie's new deals follow its December acquisition of 51 per cent of Technical Rubber, a manufacturer in Saudi Arabia, and its sale the same month of half of its ownership of Syscom, a telecoms services company.

Mr al Serkal said Masharie was in talks to sell one of its three aluminium companies for about Dh600m. It has stakes in 16 companies in the aluminium, steel, concrete, rubber and services sectors.

But he added local stock markets were "not ready" for the sale of companies in Masharie's portfolio through initial public offerings. He said the same applied to Masharie.

Dubai Investments said last year it would list 30 per cent of the company on the Dubai Financial Market.

Mr al Serkal said the Dubai Investments board of directors was considering either listing Masharie or listing groups of companies in its portfolio together - all of its holdings in the rubber or aluminium industries as a group, for example.

"There are so many factors and variables that will affect your decision on exit," Mr al Serkal said. "We were ready and we are ready, but the market isn't ready at this time."