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Private equity: Unicorn targets energy and healthcare buy-outs

Treacherous conditions persist in the Middle East when it comes to closing private equity deals. But firms investing together and using equity rather than debt still have a chance.

A good example is the 100% acquisition of Qatar Engineering and Construction Company (QCon) in October, from Qatar Shipping, which is listed on the Doha Stock Exchange and had wholly owned QCon since 2006. QCon is one of the biggest contractors and biggest providers of maintenance in the Qatari oil and gas sector. It has annual revenues of about $125 million.

The deal was co-originated by Bahraini Islamic investment bank Unicorn and Qatar America Asia Consortium, which is chaired by Shaikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Jabor Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.

The co-originators took a stake in the company, with Unicorn taking its investment on its own balance sheet, and arranging the transaction on an Islamic basis. The largest shareholders, with 41% each, will be Qatari investment banks The First Investor (TFI) and Qatar First Investment Bank. Unicorn had previous relationships with these institutions. TFI had participated in a private equity fund set up by Unicorn, says Aamir Khan, Unicorn’s head of private equity.

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