Meet Invest AD, gateway to MENA opportunities

Invest AD, the new-look Abu Dhabi Investment Company, has further ramped up efforts to attract institutional capital from around the globe to invest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by launching four new equity funds.

The rebranding and fund launches are the latest manifestations of the government-backed manager’s strategy to lure more foreign money to its home region. The equity funds target the Gulf Cooperation Council nations, the United Arab Emirates fund, the MENA region, and Emerging Africa.

The name Invest AD was a “call to action,” Nazem Fawwaz Al Kudsi, chief executive of the company, said in a statement, that addressed the underweight positions of the MENA region in many portfolios of global investors, and served to awaken domestic investors to opportunities in their backyard.

On June 5 the company announced it had also entered into a cooperation deal with the Korea Development Bank and Korea Trade Promotion Agency (KOTRA) to boost investment flows between MENA and South Korea, initially through cross-border mergers and acquisitions, and private equity, infrastructure and listed equity investments.

Cho Hwan Eik, president of KOTRA, said in a statement that Middle East investors were investing directly in Asia and Korea.

The South Korean government aims to boost foreign direct investment by 7 per cent to US$12.5 billion this year, and was using “free economic zones”, in which foreign businesses receive varying cuts on corporate, income and local tax, in addition to health care and housing assistance, to spearhead this drive.

In another cross-border deal, Invest AD confirmed that it had bought a stake in a Russian ski resort in the Caucasus mountain range, Gornaya Karusel, which is under development and is scheduled to host ski jumping events during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The original focus of the Abu Dhabi Investment Company, founded in 1997, was to invest on behalf of the Emirate’s authorities, but it now aims to attract offshore money to invest in the region and alongside the government.

Khalifa M. Al Kindi, chairman of Invest AD, said the region was a destination for investment in addition to being a source of capital, and that governments were legislating to clear bottlenecks obstructing international trade and infrastructure investment.

The fund recently achieved a first close of US$250 million for an infrastructure fund run jointly with UBS.

It expects US$410 billion of infrastructure to be built in the next decade across MENA.