Saudi sovereign fund buys 20% of Almana General Hospitals

Move by Sanabil is latest in a spate of deals involving healthcare firms in the Gulf

Saudi Arabia's government-owned fund Sanabil Investments has acquired a 20 percent stake in Ebrahim Mohammed Almana & Brothers Co, the owner of the Almana General Hospitals (AGH), a statement from one of the advisers said on Sunday.

No financial terms were disclosed in the statement from GIB Capital, the financial adviser to AGH, but it said the transaction formed part of Sanabil's strategy to invest in, and to help diversify, the Saudi economy.

Wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Sanabil was set up in 2009 with 20 billion riyals ($5.33 billion) of initial capital and a mandate to invest in less conservative assets -- as opposed to the kingdom's traditional stance which has been to park large sums in low-risk US Treasuries.

The Almana transaction was Sanabil's third direct investment in the kingdom in the past 12 months, the statement said.

Healthcare in the Gulf has drawn significant investor interest in recent months, as institutions seek to tap into a sector booming due to rising wealth coupled with an increase in conditions such as diabetes.

Among the largest of these is a tie-up between United Arab Emirates-based Al Noor Hospitals and Mediclinic International, with the South African firm acquiring Al Noor through a reverse takeover worth around $2.2 billion.

AGH, focused on the kingdom's Eastern Province, was targeting a listing on the Saudi bourse and had appointed GIB to help with the process, sources told Reuters in November 2013.

It was unclear what the transaction means for any public share sale: Saudi companies will often sell a stake to private investors before floating on the exchange, although the substantial drop in oil prices in the past 18 months has wiped billions of dollars of value from the exchange, souring sentiment among investors and prospective applicants. 

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