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Sun 24 Jan 2010 02:50 PM

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Abraaj Capital first deal likely in six months

Dubai-based private equity firm first Saudi deal likely to be in healthcare or education.

Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital may close its first transaction in Saudi Arabia within the first half of the year with a deal most likely to be in healthcare or education, an executive said on Sunday.

The Middle East's biggest private equity firm, which has raised about $7 billion since inception in 2002, is yet to announce its first deal since opening its Saudi branch in May.

Tightening credit conditions in the kingdom have brought about more opportunities but "high valuations" were still a hurdle to the conclusion of deals, Sari Anabtawi, head of Abraaj's Saudi affiliate, told Reuters.

"The issue of scarce financing is definitely a boon for us," he said on the sidelines of the Global Competitiveness Forum in Riyadh.

Anabtawi said the firm was particularly interested in the fields of education, healthcare and manufacturing, especially in the food industry.

But the firm's most advanced talks are with companies operating in the education and healthcare sectors, he added.

"I think we will close our first transaction within three to six months," Anbtawi said.

Any single transaction would "ideally" involve $300 million but the company could spend up to $600 million for deals in the country, Anabtawi added. (Reuters)

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