With peak assets of close to $10bn, Global Investment House (GIH) was once the largest and fastest growing business in Middle East finance. Its push to issue a $1.15bn GDR in London in early 2008 marked a desperate attempt to increase its balance sheet liquidity and reduce debt ratios.
The firm’s Principal Investments unit, supervised by the infamous Omar El Quqa had invested $3bn of GIH’s balance sheet into a variety of deals across MENA, some public, but many private. By year end 2007, this unit alone accounted for close to 90% of GIH’s balance sheet and 80% of its Net Income.
What happened next is covered in depth by the media, however if you’re looking for something more cerebral then our friend Abu Arqala from www.suqalmal.blogspot.com has written about the GIH restructuring here, here and here.
Fast forward a decade and GIH is in much better shape. The company was de-listed and creditors ended up diluting existing shareholders resulting in NCH Ventures SPC owning 70% of outstanding shares. NCH Ventures is a special purpose vehicle domiciled in Bahrain, which according to GIH’s website, represents the interests of more than 50 financial institutions.
The post-reorg strategy at GIH has been one of focusing on fee-generated income, which meant asset management, wealth management, brokerage and a little investment banking where possible. Today with around $3bn of assets under management, recurring fees dominate GIH’s income statement. At one point GIH even offered its “restructuring experience” as a paid service to others in the region struggling with debt reorganization.
The End Of An Era
It has come to our attention that a controlling stake in GIH is for sale. This implies the seller can only be NCH Ventures . It’s also believed that Lazard’s placement business is leading the process with a buyer estimated to pay up to $200mn for the stake. At the top of that range, this indicates a 6%+ multiple of assets under management.
This morning, according to a DFM disclosure, it appears Shuaa Capital (owned by Abu Dhabi Financial Group) is one of the suitors. Though we don’t know the details, acquiring GIH would give Shuaa Capital multiple product lines that could have synergies (local equities, brokerage, syndicated UK real estate), a boost in assets under management it desperately needs, as well as a license and sticky client base in affluent Kuwait. Furthermore, it provides an ideal opportunity for a much-needed re-branding by all parties involved.
With the merger of First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, IPIC being rolled up into Mubadala and its stake in Investcorp and now the news at GIH, it appears the regional consolidation story is finally underway.