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Abraaj assets to be taken over by Commercial Bank of Dubai

DUBAI: Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), which lent around $170mn to Abraaj, will take stakes in the troubled private equity firm’s funds which were offered as security against the debt, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Dubai-based Abraaj, worth $13.6bn, was the largest buyout fund in the Middle East and North Africa until it collapsed last year following turmoil triggered by a row with investors, including the Gates Foundation, over the use of their money in a $1bn healthcare fund.

Stakes in Abraaj’s Infrastructure and Growth Capital Fund, as well as its funds focused on Turkey, Latin America, North Africa, Africa and health, were held as security against CBD’s loans, a joint provisional liquidators’ report from July shows.

A court in the Cayman Islands is expected to grant approval to swap the debt held by CBD in the coming weeks. The move comes after Noor Bank, which lent Abraaj around $100 million, recently got the go-ahead from the same court to take control of parts of funds pledged against its loan, two of the sources said.

Read More: Abraaj founder, Naqvi faces cheque bounce charges in UAE

They added that other investors requested that Noor agree not to sell its newly acquired stakes on to Abraaj founder Arif Naqvi or his associates.

“These are consensual deals that were initiated by the joint provisional liquidators to help maintain the value of the assets and ensure value for creditors,” said a third source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Neither Commercial Bank of Dubai nor Noor Bank responded to a request for comment.

Abraaj Holdings and Abraaj Investment Management filed for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands in June and their court-appointed joint provisional liquidators, Deloitte and PwC, are overseeing the restructuring of Abraaj’s debt.

Naqvi, who stepped down as chief executive following the dispute, has been trying to win support from investors and creditors for an alternative restructuring plan to avert the liquidation of the firm.

Naqvi’s alleged links with Sharif brothers

Wall Street Journal, in an October 2018, article had claimed that Naqvi allegedly paid $20mn to one Navaid Malik for assisting Naqvi in securing Sharif brothers’ cooperation for the sale of K-Electric.

According to WSJ, Naqvi wanted Malik to persuade former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif to help him sell Abraaj’s stake in the power utility that serves Karachi.

Read More: NAB should initiate probe over WSJ report regarding kickbacks offer in K-Electric stake sale: Asad Umar

WSJ, from company documents and emails it claimed to have seen, had claimed that Naqvi was assured in October 2015 by an Abraaj partner Omar Lodhi that former Shehbaz Sharif was “willing to give a strong endorsement” of the K-Electric deal to Chinese bidders.”

Naqvi, however, had subsequently denied the allegations and said in a statement that “he was not involved in any conversation that involved a payment to anyone in political office to facilitate the sale of K-Electric.”

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