Mubadala and GE move ahead on joint venture

The companies have appointed chief executives for an US$8 billion commercial finance joint venture and an executive education centre .

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Mubadala Development and General Electric (GE) yesterday appointed chief executives for an US$8 billion (Dh29.38bn) commercial finance joint venture and an executive education centre as part of a partnership in which Mubadala will become one of GE's largest shareholders. The executive teams for the commercial finance and executive education ventures, announced last year, were mostly in place and operations at both should begin this summer, Khaldoon al Mubarak, the chief executive of Mubadala, said yesterday. "The plan is what it was 12 months ago and we are moving swiftly forwards," Mr al Mubarak said. Ron Herman, a 25-year GE veteran, is to lead the commercial finance venture, a funding arm to which GE and Mubadala will each contribute $4bn. Most recently, he was the chief executive of GE Equity, the company's private equity financing unit. "We have a business plan, a team, and we're developing a pipeline and going through a formal regulatory process, and by end of summer we should be moving forward [with the commercial finance unit]," said Jeff Immelt, the chairman and chief executive of GE. Mr al Mubarak said the unit would help fund projects and businesses around the world. "We don't want to box in this joint venture as a UAE joint venture or a Middle East joint venture, and we're going to look at all the opportunities out there." Jeff Barnes, another 25-year GE veteran, was appointed "chief learning officer" of the Abu Dhabi Leadership Development Centre. Mr Barnes has worked in various positions at GE, including on the launch of the GE China Learning Centre in Shanghai. Workshops and education programmes are to begin there next month before relocating within three months to a temporary location on Abu Dhabi island. Within three years, the centre is to move to its permanent home in Mubadala's Masdar City. Mubadala, established in 2002 as an Abu Dhabi government-owned venture capital and investment arm, has expanded rapidly in size and scope since Mr al Mubarak became its chief executive in 2005. Mubadala reported total assets of about Dh54bn at the end of last year, according to a 2008 annual report released in April. It received a total of Dh1.4bn from the government between 2002 and 2005, but this has since expanded to Dh39.2bn. The unnamed commercial finance venture was the cornerstone of the Mubadala-GE partnership announced last July. The tie-up includes joint investments in clean-energy development, aviation maintenance, executive education and finance. In January, Mubadala and GE announced that GE would be the first tenant at Masdar City, an eco-city that Mubadala is building next to the Abu Dhabi International Airport. GE is to build a 4,000 square metre Ecomagination City there to house a centre focused on sustainable technologies. "The world has changed dramatically since we announced this partnership last year," Mr Immelt said. "The fact that everything we committed to in our announcement is on track and proceeding as planned is a testament to the strength of the Mubadala partnership and the soundness of our strategy. "We seek to forge partnerships of strength around the world. Mubadala is the ideal partner." As part of its strategic partnership with GE, Mubadala has said it would buy shares in the company "as market conditions allow", with the aim of becoming one of its top 10 shareholders. Mubadala said recently it had acquired 65.8 million shares, about 0.62 per cent of the company. Mr al Mubarak said yesterday that Mubadala was "continuously monitoring the situation" for attractive opportunities to buy shares. Despite its size, the GE partnership is just one of Mubadala's many large joint ventures and direct investments. It is developing the 105-hectare Sowwah Island north-east of Abu Dhabi City and is partnering a Singapore-based company to develop a large area around the Sheikh Zayed Sports City complex. Mubadala also has a joint venture with Dubai Aluminium called Emirates Aluminium, which will host the world's largest aluminium smelter. And just last week during the visit of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to the UAE, Mubadala announced a partnership with France's Strategic Investment Fund to explore joint investments in France. Also last week, it was said to be in "exploratory talks" with Malaysia's Terengganu Investment Authority about collaborating in oil and gas industry projects, as well as a $1.8bn investment in a major property development in Malaysia.