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Wed 21 Mar 2012 06:08 PM

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Bahrain's SWF appoints new chief executive

Mahmood Hashem al-Kooheji named as new chief at $9bn fund Mumtalakat

Bahrain's SWF appoints new chief executive
Talal Al Zain, chief executive officer of Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Co, resigned last month.

Bahrain's $9bn sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat appointed Mahmood Hashem al-Kooheji as its new chief executive on Wednesday, replacing Talal Al Zain who resigned last month to set up his own investment firm.

Kooheji, who was deputy chief executive of the fund since 2006, was also mostly recently the chief executive of Bahrain-based labour fund Tamkeen, Mumtalakat said in a statement.

The Kooheji family owns one of the largest family businesses in the Gulf Arab island kingdom and has close ties to the ruling royal al-Khalifa family.

Sources had earlier told Reuters that Salman al-Khalifa, a former top regional banker at Deutsche Bank in the Middle East and royal family member, was the prime contender to run the fund.

Set up in 2006 to help diversify Bahrain's economy away from hydrocarbons, Mumtalakat has stakes in over 35 commercial entities, including Bahrain Telecommunications Co, Gulf Air, and Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA), one of the largest aluminium smelters in the world.

Kooheji is also the chairman of Aluminium Bahrain.

Bahrain, a regional offshore banking hub, has been hit by a year of unrest after majority Shi'ite Muslims, inspired by the "Arab Spring" uprisings, launched a pro-democracy movement which was put down by the government with the help of forces from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Mumtalakat, among the smallest sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf Arab region, has seen deal activity dry up in the wake of popular protests.

In December, Mumtalakat said it narrowed its 2010 operating loss to BD48.9m ($129.71m) from a loss of BD123.4m citing strong growth in gross margins and an improved operating performance across the portfolio.

Revenues rose 15 percent in 2010, thanks to commodity price-fuelled gains at Aluminium Bahrain.

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