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Bahrain SWF may sell 25pc of Gulf Air

The $9 billion Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, is considering selling a stake in national carrier Gulf Air as it eyes more liquid investments.

Talal Al Zain, Mumtalakat’s chief executive officer, said the fund had held discussions with interested bidders, and that selling a minimum 25 per cent of Gulf Air was “a possibility”, according to regional media reports.

“We’re an investment company so we don’t need to own the majority stake in any one company,” Al Zain said.

In a statement released in July, Mumtalakat revealed that it was seeking advisers to help it strengthen the loss-making airline, which was bleeding more than $1 million each day.

But despite interest from would-be acquirers, the fund did not have any immediate plans to divest a stake in the airline, Al Zain said.

The fund is the holding vehicle for many Bahrain companies, including Aluminium Bahrain, Bahrain Food Holding Co. and the Bahrain International Circuit, a motor racing course. It also holds stakes in Gulf International Bank (GIB) and Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC).

However, Al Zain said the fund aimed to diversify into “more liquid investments”.

In July, Mumtalakat said its loss of $183.3 million in 2008 was attributable to impairment charges on its holdings in GIB and GIC.

Al Zain said the fund’s total assets neared $9 billion.

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