Abu Dhabi fund hires up for regional M&A service

Continuing its expansionist aims, the Abu Dhabi Investment Corporation (ADIC) has lured an investment banker from Rothschild to focus on cross-border merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, which it expects to spike as the financial crisis wears on.

The Abu Dhabi government-owned manager recruited Alex Carré de Malberg as head of investment banking to spearhead its M&A and capital raising advisory business, run for institutional investors targeting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Carré de Malberg said capital from the Middle East could be used to support and profit from companies in financial distress by companies worldwide as projects are stalled and debt remains expensive.

“There are pockets of liquidity in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are well-placed to take advantage of distressed situations in the MENA region, other emerging markets and Europe,” Carré de Malberg said.

“In times of crisis, you only keep parts of your business that fit your long-term objectives, and you sell anything that is not synergistic.”

ADIC also aimed to advise selected institutions and companies from Europe, China and the US that had long-term investment plans in the Middle East and shared an aligned view with the Abu Dhabi ruling family and the emirate’s institutions.

“The Middle East is a source of capital, but also investment opportunities,” Nazem Fawwaz Al Kudsi, chief executive of ADIC, said.

M&A activity in the region was subdued in the second half of 2008 as credit dried up amid the financial crisis, but showed signs of returning as private equity firms, companies and family offices responded to fallen asset valuations, an ADIC statement read.

ADIC has recently made clear its aim of expanding its international profile and garner a broader international and high-net-worth client base. Earlier this year, it separated its direct investing and funds management operations, and formed a partnership with the German private bank, BHF-Bank, to provide investment services to its clients.

In February 2008 entered into a 50/50 joint venture with UBS Global Asset Management to run a $500 billion infrastructure fund.

Carré de Malberg, who worked at Rothschild’s for more than a decade, set up the investment bank’s operations in the U.A.E.