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Tue 16 Feb 2010 09:20 PM

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GFH in talks to sell $250m of assets in Q1

Acting CEO said investment house wants to have an 'orderly sale' and 'gradual exit'.

Gulf Finance House (GFH) is in talks to sell its stakes in Khaleeji Commercial Bank as well as its real estate projects, expecting a return of $250 million, its acting CEO said on Tuesday.

Ted Pretty told the Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance summit in Manama that the troubled investment house is in talks with banks, sovereign institutions and real estate developers and hopes to complete the sales by the end of the quarter.

Hard hit by a property crash in the Gulf Arab region, GFH escaped default on a $300 million loan this month by striking an eleventh hour deal to roll over one third by six months.

Bankers and analysts have said it needs to sell down assets to avoid further funding difficulties.

Pretty said: "We have $420 million in assets identified for sale that we want to achieve in the next twelve months. We don't want to be forced sellers, but we want to have an orderly sale and exit them gradually over the year."

He said GFH's stakes in Bahrain based First Energy Bank, Qatar's QInvest and Asia Finance House were among these assets.

Pretty said the investment house aims to replace a $100 million loan arranged by Liquidity Management Centre (LMC) that matures in two tranches in March 2010 and March 2011, by a new two year facility.

He also said that Salah Rahimi, head of GFH's real estate and infrastructure unit, left the bank, effective Feb 10, and that the bank had laid off 35 employees since year end.

Pretty said the bank plans to bring down its annual costs by 40 to 45 percent to below $80 million. (Reuters)

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