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Mon 13 Apr 2015 01:20 PM

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Bahrain SWF wants to double assets under management by 2022

Mumtalakat chief says seeking targets in Europe, the US and select pockets in the Far East

Bahrain SWF wants to double assets under management by 2022

Bahraini sovereign fund Mumtalakat wants to double its $6.4 billion assets under management in the next seven years, preferably through partnerships with global investment firms, its chief executive told Reuters.

With stakes in some of the kingdom's most high-profile firms including Aluminium Bahrain and Batelco as well as international names such as car firm McLaren, the fund currently has assets worth around 2.4 billion dinars ($6.37 billion).

"Our ambition is to double that size - five to seven years, we should be able," Mahmood al-Kooheji told Reuters in an interview at the state-owned fund's offices in Manama.

It is seeking targets in Europe and the US, and select pockets in the Far East, across multiple sectors including logistics and industrials, Kooheji said, adding it wanted businesses where the existing management would remain.

It would likely borrow to fund transactions, although it planned no debt at the company level after raising a loan and a sukuk at the end of 2014 to refinance existing obligations.

Mumtalakat has been on a spending spree in recent months, buying U.S. private education company Nobel Learning and software and services firm PRO Unlimited, as well as a stake in United Arab Emirates-based GEMS Education.

The deals were done in partnership with other firms, including Blackstone Group and Investcorp, and future transaction would likely follow the same route.

"You have more than one set of eyes looking at the business, so if we all say yes then it gives us comfort," Kooheji said. "But the bigger advantage is when we group together, we can do a bigger size of deal."

In its most prominent cooperative effort, in late 2013 Mumtalakat made a multi-billion-dollar bid with CVC Capital Partners for sports rights agency IMG, although it ultimately lost to a rival bid.

Joint bids are growing in popularity, as an increasing number of firms chase a finite pool of assets and many Gulf Arab sovereign wealth funds scale back capital expenditure due to lower oil prices.

Kooheji said the oil price fall had not impacted Mumtalakat's plans or appetite for new investments, because although it is fully state-owned it does not receive surplus government money.

Kooheji would not be drawn on whether the fund was still in negotiations with McLaren Chief Executive Ron Dennis about selling part of its stake to him.

"We're still happy shareholders but if there is a good opportunity, we could go out. But I could never envisage us being completely out," Kooheji said.

When pushed for further clarity, he added: "I think you should ask Ron about that."

Dennis will be in Bahrain later this week for the Formula One race due to be held next Sunday.

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