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Capital Markets

Abraaj Capital: a broad regional approach

Private equity is still a nascent market in the Middle East but its earliest practitioners have amassed almost five years’ experience. Kathryn Wells examines Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity firm in the Middle East.

Collapsing stock markets boost private equity Abraaj Capital claims the distinction of being the largest private equity group in the Middle East, and estimates that by the end of the year it will have $4 billion in assets under management. Its funds invest in countries stretching from Morocco to India and Pakistan, taking in north Africa, the Levant region, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the South Asian subcontinent.

According to Abdullah Shahin, vice-president of investments at Abraaj, the firm runs a number of funds that can be split, broadly speaking, into three areas: buyout funds, special opportunities funds and real estate funds.

What Shahin describes as Abraaj’s “signature deal” was in fact the firm’s first investment, through the Abraaj Buyout Fund LP. This involved taking logistics company Aramex – the Middle East’s home-grown version of DHL or Fedex – private through a $65 million delisting from Nasdaq. A $25 million equity and $40 million debt package was used.

Aramex was the first Arab company to list on Nasdaq in 1997. “Aramex was listed on the wrong market for its brand,” Shahin explains. “So the best thing to do was to delist off Nasdaq and take the company private.

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