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Tue 10 Apr 2007 03:18 PM

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Emirates International mulls IPO

The UAE property investment firm is mulling a share listing to fund overseas expansion.

Middle East-based property investment firm Emirates International Holdings (EIH) has hired a bank to study the possibility of a share listing as part of its overseas expansion, its chief said.

Established in 2004, EIH is 36% owned by Emirates Investments Group (EIG), one of the investment firms such as Dubai World and Istithmar to have emerged from the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

EIH, which has assets valued at around US$200 million, is seeking to grow its portfolio of residential, commercial and hospitality properties outside of its United Arab Emirates (UAE) base, where about 60% of its assets are located.

EIH Managing Director Reza Jafar told Reuters in an interview that the firm would finalise its financing plans once it had decided on the direction of its foreign expansion.

"We are in the process of completing the evaluation and are talking to investors for private placement possibilities in several international markets," Jafar said.

Jafar, who is also vice-chairman of Emirates Investments Group, said EIH was also studying the possibility of a listing.

"For this, we have appointed an investment bank and a legal firm, as part of a process which we normally execute when we are considering any significant idea or joint venture proposal," Jafar said, adding that no exchange had been identified for the potential listing.

At least two banking sources told Reuters that EIH had hired Singapore's UOB Kay Hian to look into an initial public offering (IPO) but Jafar declined to comment.

"We're working on our strategy and looking at the markets for international expansion and the current values," he said.

A listing by ElH would be the second foray by a major Middle East property player into Singapore this year.

Last month, Emaar Properties - the largest Arab property developer by market value - made a voluntary cash offer with Indian real estate firm MGF Group for Singapore-listed sports retailer RSH Ltd.

Gulf Arab property developers are accelerating expansions outside of Dubai, the Arab world's commercial centre, which kicked off a rise in real estate values in 2002 by allowing foreigners to invest in property.

"As the current boom is finite, Dubai real estate firms should look to broaden their horizons in order to compete on an international level," said Jafar, who was in Singapore for a conference.

EIH is considering property investments in Singapore, which it sees as its entry point into Asia.

"We are looking at Singapore very seriously. We think there is demand and capacity," Jafar said.

But Jafar said the firm was less certain about other property markets in the region.

"We have made a few visits to China to get a feel for the market. There is so much to learn. Currently we haven't looked at India."

He said about three-quarters of EIH's portfolio was in commercial and residential property with the remaining in hospitality assets such as hotels and resorts.

One of EIH's high profile investments in the hospitality sector has been a tie-up with Australian developer Sunland Group to develop luxury resorts around the world under the Italian fashion brand Versace.

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