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Dubai firm eyes stake in EADS

Issac John (Deputy Business Editor)
Filed on May 19, 2007

DUBAI — In less than 20 days after making a substantial investment in a global banking giant, Dubai International Capital (DIC), said yesterday it was pondering another major European acquisition as part of a move to set up a portfolio of $10 billion stakes in the world's big companies.

A statement by DIC's Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Sameer Al Ansari that the Dubai government-owned entity was in talks with the management of EADS — the manufacturer of Airbus aircraft — for a possible acquisition, however, could not be confirmed by a spokesman of Airbus.

Speaking to Khaleej Times from Europe, Habib Fekih, President, Airbus Middle East, said he could not confirm the news. "As far as I know, no decision has yet been taken by EADS on this bid."

The DIC statement came as France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, yesterday said his government was prepared to inject new cash into EADS if new shares are issued. Sarkozy said his aim is to help Airbus fund the development of its A380 and A350 planes. He suggested that new shareholders could be sought. "We are ready to follow, we are ready to take the lead, we are ready to put money in. Our goal will be to sell again once things have returned to normal,” he said. (See also Page 40)

DIC, which has invested $6 billion on buying stakes in a spate of companies since being set up in 2004, is said to be conducting due diligence on its new target. Al Ansari, who denied any such move in November, was quoted by news agencies as saying that he expected to make a decision in this regard in two months.

On May 1, NewDawn GSE Asset Management Ltd, a unit of DIC Asset Management as well as the 'general partner' for the $2 billion Global Strategic Equities

Fund (GSEF), bought a stake, the size of which was not disclosed, in HSBC bank, and said its investment in the banking major represented the first of a number of planned investments by GSEF in global Fortune 500 companies following the recent closing of a $ 1 billion fund-raising.

Last year, DIC acquired Doncasters Group Limited, a UK-based manufacturer of precision engineering components and systems for £700 million; and Travelodge, the UK's leading budget hotel brand for £675 million. In 2005, it bought the Tussauds Group, which runs Madame Tussauds wax museum, and the London Eye for $1.5 billion. It has also bought the British engineering firm Doncasters Group, a supplier to the US military, for $1.2 billion. In the same year, DIC acquired a significant stake in DaimlerChrysler, the world’s second largest carmaker, for $1 billion, making it the company's third largest shareholder

"Share prices are on their knees. Airbus is a major problem. Where there is a problem, there is usually an opportunity," Ansari was quoted by Reuters. "We will definitely be talking to them as part of our fact-finding homework. Due diligence we will do on several companies. DIC has short-listed several under-valued international companies for investments of as much as $1.5 billion each."

EADS has been negotiating with potential foreign investors, including major Gulf funds, the possibility of selling them direct stakes in its Airbus unit to help fund its A350 project after Britain's BAE Systems sold its 20-per cent stake in Airbus to the parent company. EADS is also looking at potential investors in China, India and Russia as well as the United States.

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