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Sun 12 Aug 2012 03:54 PM

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Kuwait's Global plans $433m debt for equity swap

Proposed plan would be rare example of debt for equity being used in Gulf Arab restructuring

Kuwait's Global plans $433m debt for equity swap

Global Investment House, the Kuwaiti investment firm undergoing its second debt restructuring in three years, will seek shareholders approval for a debt-for-equity swap which if approved will see creditors own 70 percent of the company.

The proposed plan, which will see the remaining debt met by assets transferred to the creditors, would be a rare example of debt-for-equity being used in a Gulf Arab restructuring.

Like a number of Kuwaiti investment firms, Global's business and its investment portfolio were hit hard by the financial crisis, with real estate and stock valuations plummeting and investor confidence drained as a result.

Under the proposal, to be put to shareholders at a September 2 meeting, Global will offer KWD122.2m (US$432.9m) of new shares to creditors, it said in a statement posted on the Dubai stock exchange.

The outstanding debt amount not met by the swap will be covered by the transfer of assets from Global to a special purpose vehicle which will be controlled by creditors.

While debt-for-equity is a common tool in the West, it has not found favour in the Middle East as both local and international banks have been reluctant to take stakes in local companies; instead, most deals have involved extending the maturity of debt to allow for companies to sell assets once values have recovered.

Investment Dar, another Kuwaiti investment firm, was one previous example of debt-for-equity in the Gulf. It agreed in February 2011 to give creditors a 10-percent stake as part of a KWD1bn restructuring deal.

Global, which counts the governments of Kuwait and Dubai as major shareholders, asked bank creditors in September to suspend payments on a US$1.7bn plan agreed in 2009.

In June, bank creditors approved a further repayment delay of principal and interest to November from June, with a one-month extension also available at the discretion of lenders, to allow for a debt deal to be agreed upon.

The announcement came days after holders of Global bonds worth KWD95m assented to a delay in repayment to December from June.

The meeting will also seek the nod to write off accumulated losses worth KWD31.1m against its current share premium and a further KWD77.1m against its existing paid-up capital, Global said.

Shares in Global have not traded on the Kuwait Stock Exchange since December, when the bourse suspended the stock after the company's accumulated losses exceeded 75 percent of its capital.

Treasury shares worth KWD11.5m will be cancelled, subject to shareholder assent, the statement added.

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