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Thu 9 Jan 2014 04:14 PM

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Dubai Group said to hire banker from main creditor as CEO

Sources say Ahmed al-Qassim has been appointed by investment vehicle of Dubai ruler

Dubai Group said to hire banker from main creditor as CEO
Dubai Group is a unit of Dubai Holding, the investment arm of the ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum

Dubai Group, a conglomerate in the midst of a $10 billion debt restructuring, has appointed as its chief executive Ahmed al-Qassim, who previously worked at its biggest creditor, three sources aware of the matter told Reuters.

David Smoot, the chief executive of Dubai International Capital (DIC) who was asked earlier this year to manage the sale of Dubai Group's assets, didn't take up the role, which led to Qassim's appointment, the sources added on Thursday.

Dubai Group, a unit of the investment vehicle of the ruler of the emirate, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qassim, an Emirati, was a director of investment banking at Emirates NBD (ENBD) from February 2013, according to his LinkedIn page, and has also held roles at General Electric and its joint venture with Abu Dhabi state-owned fund Mubadala Development Company.

Dubai Group is yet to clinch a deal to reorganise its $10 billion debt pile despite more than three years of talks with creditors. ENBD is Dubai Group's largest creditor, with around 40 percent of the $6 billion due to banks. The remaining $4 billion is classified as inter-company loans.

Two of the sources - at other creditor banks - said they were happy with Qassim's appointment, despite his previous connections with ENBD.

"Management, shareholders and creditors' interests need to be aligned so it's good to have someone who understands the situation," said one of the creditor sources, speaking on condition of anonymity as the information isn't public.

That view was echoed by a separate restructuring banker who has worked on a number of Dubai debt reorganisations.

"If you saw ENBD getting favours then you would complain but there's a restructuring plan in place which ascribes certain asset sales so he would find it hard to deviate from that," he said.

Smoot had been asked to manage Dubai Group's assets as part of the restructuring plan, sources told Reuters in March.

The American former investment banker, in charge of DIC since 2010, has earned plaudits for the way he has helped turn around the firm - also part of the Dubai Holding stable - since DIC's own $2.5 billion restructuring was completed in 2012, selling several assets in difficult market conditions.

He was expected to extend his remit to Dubai Group's assets and help with their sale. However, differences of opinion between Smoot and the company meant he didn't take up the role and Qassim was appointed instead, the three sources said.

Dubai Group completed a number of asset sales in 2013 as it raised cash to repay debt, such as offloading credit card firm Dubai First and its stake in Oman National Investment Corp Holding.

One such sale, its 30.5 percent stake in Malaysia's Bank Islam, has caused the latest delay to the restructuring as some creditors who have debt secured against the holding await their cash before signing the final deal, the two sources said.

The $550 million stake sale to BIMB Holdings was announced in August but was delayed after the purchaser had problems securing the agreement of the Malaysian central bank for issuing an Islamic bond to help fund the deal.

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