Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund not interested in the likes of Uber

“They have a lot of potential and I admire them and respect them a lot, but that’s not what we are going for", says CEO

(ITP Images)

(ITP Images)

The CEO of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat has ruled out high-profile technology investments along the lines of Saudi Arabia’s $3.5bn cash injection in transport app Uber, dismissing such companies as “lacking maturity”.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) set a record last year when it took a five percent stake in Uber – the largest single investment made in a private company.

But Bahrain’s $11 billion wealth fund is unlikely to court deals with any of the new breed of Silicon Valley technology firms, its CEO Mohammed Al Kooheji told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview.

“For us, that sort of ticket is not what we are pursuing,” he said. “We expect proper corporate governance and transparency processes, and the younger companies do not always adhere to [these processes]. They are usually younger generational, bubbling, and they have not yet reached that level of maturity.

“They have a lot of potential and I admire them and respect them a lot, but that’s not what we are going for. We go for less risky, safer investments.”

Al Kooheji said Mumtalakat is also unlikely ever to take high-profile stakes in iconic London hotels or European football clubs, as favoured by another Gulf sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).

“Football clubs. Are they commercially viable? I don’t think so,” he said. “I believe that as a sovereign wealth fund, we need to be a more serious investor. We need to add to the economy or the community, through investor protection, education or some kind of public service.”

He said the fund’s long-term focus was what differentiated it from prospective rivals in the private equity space.

“For us, each investment is like a marriage – we intend to stay long term and help these companies achieve their growth. That’s what makes us different from the private equity firms, who are there for a few years at a time, then their investment cycle is finished and they need to exit. We have the appetite to stay.”

To read the full interview with Mohammed Al Kooheji, click here

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