By Tom Arnold, Saeed Azhar and Davide Barbuscia
DUBAI (Reuters) – Arif Naqvi, founder of troubled buyout firm Abraaj, is making a last-ditch effort to rescue the remaining business of what was once one of the largest investors in emerging markets.
The $13.6 billion (10.63 billion pounds) company crumbled this year following turmoil triggered by a row with investors, including the Gates Foundation, over the use of their money in a healthcare fund.
Naqvi has met limited partners and creditors in an effort to win back their support for a plan to restructure the debt of Abraaj Holdings and some of its older funds to avert liquidation for the Dubai-based firm, two sources said.
A spokesman for Karachi-born Naqvi, who established Abraaj with only $60 million in 2002 and built it into one of the largest investors in emerging markets, said in a statement:
“Mr Naqvi has repeatedly stated his commitment to finding a positive, solution-led outcome to this situation. Doing right by the investors, creditors and staff is his priority, in addition to maximising recoveries for all stakeholders involved.”
Following the dispute with investors in the $1 billion healthcare fund, the Middle East and North Africa’s biggest buyout fund halted its fundraising activities and shook up its management as it tackled ensuing debt repayment problems.
There is uncertainty about whether Naqvi, who has been living in London since early 2018, will be able to overcome investor doubts over unresolved questions about hundreds of millions of dollars missing from some of the funds.
But if the process of debt restructuring and carving up of various Abraaj funds drags on, creditors and limited partners may become more open to Naqvi’s plan, two of the sources said.
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.
As liquidators began to break up the operations of the company, several bidders emerged for various Abraaj funds. TPG has entered into exclusive talks to take over the management of Abraaj’s health fund, while Actis, Brookfield Asset Management and Colony Capital are front-runners for other funds.
The court in the Cayman Islands earlier this month granted an extension for PwC and Deloitte to devise a restructuring proposal over the next three months. PwC declined to comment, while Deloitte did not immediately respond.
Naqvi’s plan, which one of the sources said his lawyers had presented at the latest court hearing, involves funds where no new asset manager has yet emerged, one of the sources said.
So far only one creditor, Dubai-based Mashreqbank, is known to have responded positively to his proposal, along with a small number of investors, another said. Mashreqbank was not immediately available to comment.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)