Mumtalakat in assets sell-off

Bahrain Mumtalakat Holdings, a state-owned investment agency worth at least $10 billion (Dh36.7bn), said yesterday it plans to sell off assets and buy into foreign companies as part of a strategy by the Gulf oil producer to diversify its holdings. Mumtalakat is considering two acquisitions: one in the services sector in North America worth as much as $1bn and the other in Asia, Talal al-Zain, chief executive officer of Mumtalakat, told Reuters.

Mumtalakat's assets include Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), Gulf Air and Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco).

The agency, with stakes in 34 companies, plans to reduce its holdings in firms in which it has a majority, such as Alba, Batelco and National Bank of Bahrain, Zain said.

Options include selling to long-term investors and initial public offering, he said.

"I don't see why we should maintain majority stakes," Zain said. "We should at least be reducing them."

The Bahraini government would be satisfied in many cases with minority stakes of between 20 and 25 per cent, Zain said.

Alba is Mumtalakat's biggest asset in which the Bahraini government has a 77 per cent stake, he added. It owns almost 57 per cent of Batelco and 50 per cent of National Bank of Bahrain. He said sales could take place in the next 12 months with the government seeking to diversity its assets, which are mostly based in Bahrain, to 50 per cent in Bahrain and 50 per cent overseas, and to increase the value of the assets, Zain said. Overseas, the company is interested in investing in industries including telecommunications, real estate and financial services.

Zain declined to give further details about the planned acquisition in North America or the one in Asia. (Reuters)