A wave of major overseas acquisitons over the past few years has turned the UAE into the largest Arab investor abroad, with total deals of more than $26 billion (Dh96bn) in seven years, according to UN data.
The figures, which covered the period during 2000-2006, showed the UAE alone accounted for more than half the total value of acquisitions finalised by the six Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states.
From a negligible level during 2000-2004, the UAE’s aquisition transactions rocketed to $4.7bn in 2005 and $21.6bn in 2006 to boost the value of its acquisitions abroad to $26.5bn during 2000-2006, showed figures by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The increase turned the UAE into the largest Arab buyer of foreign assets abroad and the report said the sharp growth in the investments of the Emirates and other Gulf countries contributed to a higher flow of global foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2006.
Egypt ranked second, with acquisitions during that period totalling around $19.7bn. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, with a value of $9.11bn and Kuwait, with nearly $6.6bn.
Despite its small size and tiny oil resources, Bahrain emerged as a major investor in acquisitions abroad, with a total value of $3.6bn during 2000-2006. Lebanon is also a key investor, with acquisitions of around $1.5bn.
The report showed combined acquisitions by the GCC, which groups the UAE with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, totalled around $46.7bn during 2000-2006. More than half of those deals were made during 2006, when they stood at around $29.9bn.
The report gave no figures for 2007 but bankers said they expected the total GCC acquisition transactions to have exceeded $70bn.
It also did not specify the investors, but in the UAE both public and private organisations have stepped up an overseas acquisition drive over the past two years. They include Dubai Ports, Abu Dhabi Investment, Mubadala, etisalat, the Abu Dhabi Energy Company Taqa and Aabar among others.
The report showed sales of GCC assets were far lower than their acquisition deals, standing at around $1.3bn during 2000-2006. Kuwait topped the list in this field, with a sales value of nearly $492 million, followed by the UAE, with a figure of around $419m.
Morocco was the largest seller of assets among Arab states, with deals worth around $6bn. It was followed by Egypt with nearly $5.5bn.
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