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Wed 31 Aug 2016 06:35 PM

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UAE's Al Jaber to sell contractor, leverage hotel in debt plan

Sources say moves are part of attempt by company to agree new restructuring deal with creditors

UAE's Al Jaber to sell contractor, leverage hotel in debt plan

Abu Dhabi's Al Jaber Group plans to raise up to 2.35 billion dirhams ($640 million) by the end of 2017 by selling its stake in a construction company and using a prime hotel in the emirate as collateral for a loan, informed sources said.

The moves are part of an attempt by the family conglomerate to seal a new restructuring deal with creditors after missing a payment on its existing $4.5 billion debt plan in March.

Creditors of the group, best known for construction but with interests in a host of other sectors, are currently studying the proposed debt plan, with four sources indicating they are confident an agreement could be in place by year-end.

This would avert the collapse of the company and subsequent contagion for thousands of suppliers, subcontractors and customers.

A spokesman for Al Jaber - which borrowed extensively at the end of the last decade to expand only to be caught out by a local economic slowdown - declined to comment.

Asset sales had been slated under the previous restructuring plan, agreed in 2014, but difficult market conditions and the family's reluctance to relinquish control of businesses meant these did not happen.

The plan includes specific time frames for asset sales to be completed in, and greater corporate governance controls - including independent board members - to ensure it happens.

If the new plan is implemented, Al Jaber must raise 1.5 billion dirhams by the end of this year, with a three-month extension possible, and a further 2.4 billion dirhams by the close of 2017, according to two of the sources, both of whom are based in the United Arab Emirates.

Of the 1.5 billion dirhams needed by Dec. 31, around 500 million dirhams is earmarked to come from selling real estate assets, with further cash from offloading shares in listed companies including global ports operator DP World and redemptions from fund investments.

Between 300 million and 350 million dirhams will come from a loan raised against the five-star Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank lined up to provide the cash, the two UAE-based sources said.

An ADCB spokesman declined to comment.

Of the 2.4 billion dirhams needed to meet the 2017 target, Al Jaber expects as much as 2 billion dirhams to come from selling its 80 percent stake in construction joint venture ALEC.

ALEC is working on a number of high-profile projects in Dubai, including expanding the emirate's second airport Al Maktoum International and developing a manmade island upon which the world's largest Ferris wheel is being built.

United Arab Emirates-based boutique investment firm Stirling Financial Services has been chosen to advise Al Jaber on the ALEC sale, the UAE-based sources said.

Local firm Ardent Advisory & Accounting has been working with Al Jaber since March on the restructuring process, they added. Ardent declined to comment.

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