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Tue 12 Aug 2008 02:30 PM

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Wealth funds seek $6.5bn for expansion

Banks confirm Bahrain and Dubai funds want finance for acquisitions in Asia and North America.

Two Gulf Arab sovereign wealth funds are looking to borrow as much as $6.5 billion to help finance expansion, bankers said on Tuesday.

Bahrain's $10 billion investment agency Mumtalakat Holdings is seeking $500 million to finance acquisitions and Investment Corporation Dubai, which pools some of the emirate's biggest firms, has started syndication of a $6 billion loan, bankers said.

Mumtalakat said in May it was considering two acquisitions, one in the services sector in North America worth as much as $1 billion dollars, and another in Asia.

It will close syndication of its loan on August 17, said a spokesman for the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), which is arranging the loan. Mumtalakat owns 50 percent of NBB.

The five-year loan, which includes a $150 million Islamic tranche, is being marketed to local and regional banks, he said.

"By undertaking our first debt facility, Mumtalakat will be well placed to capture value-creating acquisition opportunities when they arise," Mumtalakat Chief Executive Talal al-Zain said in a statement.

Investment Corporation Dubai's loan, which is in general syndication, includes two Islamic tranches of $1.5 billion to $2 billion, two bankers involved in the transaction said on Tuesday.

The loan will be used for general corporate activity, bankers told Reuters last month.

Regional government investment agencies are tapping debt markets to finance expansion as Gulf economies boom on a more than five-fold rise in oil prices since 2002.

Mumtalakat planned to sell assets and buy into foreign firms as part of a strategy by Bahrain to diversify holdings, Zain said in May.

Mumtalakat's assets include Bahrain Aluminium (Alba), Gulf Air, Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) and a 30 percent stake in the Mclaren Formula 1 motor racing team.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Bank, Barclays Capital, Citigroup and HSBC are lead arrangers for the ICD's conventional loan, while Noor Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered are among the bookrunners for the Islamic tranches.

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