Tuesday, June 19, 2018 10..55AM / Financial tribune
Abraaj Holdings, once one of the developing world’s most influential investors, has filed for a court-supervised restructuring as it battles allegations of misused funds.
The buyout firm made the filing in the Cayman Islands to protect the rights of its stakeholders and restructure its debt, according to an emailed statement, Arabian Business reported.
The filing seeks to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers as the provisional liquidator, which will impose a moratorium on all unsecured claims.
The filing “will create a more controlled basis for moving forward, without impacting the day-to-day management of the funds and the underlying portfolio businesses,” founder Arif Naqvi said in the statement. “The process of court supervised restructuring will take a few months. I will continue to support this orderly process and help ensure the best possible outcome for all the stakeholders.”
Abraaj’s move comes less than five months after some of its investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in Abraaj’s healthcare fund.
Since then, the company, which once managed almost $14 billion for institutions and supranational agencies, has faced growing concerns about its viability.
“This will bring it all to an end over time and this is the best way to go about it, meaning most fair for everyone,” said Richard Segal, a senior analyst at Manulife Asset Management Ltd in London. “But the fact that they are at this stage means it is still a guess how long the process will take and what will be left”.
Bloomberg reported Abraaj’s plans to file for provisional liquidation on June 12. It also noted that for the UAE, the swift collapse of Naqvi’s reputation and troubles at the Mideast’s biggest private equity firm threaten its reputation as a business hub.
A review of Abraaj’s finances found that there was commingling of Abraaj’s own money in the health-care fund and its fourth private equity fund, according to a summary of a report by Deloitte that was presented to creditors on June 4 and seen by Bloomberg News.
Abraaj still owes $94.6 million to its so-called Private Equity Fund IV, but all the money has been accounted for and there’s no evidence of embezzlement or misappropriation, according to the report.
Naqvi ceded control of Abraaj’s fund-management business in February, but is still the chief executive officer of Abraaj Holdings.
Abraaj’s application will also protect the company from filings made by some of its creditors. Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security said last week it filed a petition for the liquidation and winding up of Abraaj Holdings after it defaulted on a $100 million loan.
A second creditor, Auctus Fund, also filed a petition in the Cayman Islands to start a process that would allow Abraaj to avoid collapse and repay its debt.
Born in Karachi, Naqvi was an immigrant outsider in the countries where he made his name. Before his arrival in the UAE, he worked at the Olayan Group, the dynastic Saudi Arabian conglomerate founded by billionaire Suliman Saleh Olayan.