Bahrain Fund Targets Foreign Deals for First Time Since McLaren

Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund expects this year to make its first international acquisition since buying a 30 percent stake in carmaker McLaren Group in 2007.

Mumtalakat, as the fund is called, is looking at more than one foreign company, chief executive officer Mahmood Al Kooheji said today in an interview in Manama. “We have more than one deal in the pipeline and they are at various stages of development,” he said.

Mumtalakat is targeting companies in the U.S., Europe and Far East where it can act as a co-investor with other firms, he said. The fund is not looking at property, aviation or infrastructure companies, Al Kooheji said, declining to be more specific. Late last year Mumtalakat made an unsuccessful bid to acquire U.S. talent agency IMG Worldwide in a group with CVC Capital Partners.

McLaren is the only foreign asset owned by Mumtalakat. Last year the sovereign fund focused on investing $150 million in Bahrain and trying to turnaround the country’s loss-making national carrier Gulf Air, Al Kooheji said.

The shift to investing more outside the country follows the fund’s return to profitability. In the first half of 2013 net income before impairments was 49 million Bahraini dinar ($130 million), compared to a net loss of 35 million dinar in the same period of 2012, Kooheji said. A reduction in losses at Gulf Air was largely responsible for the return to profitability.

Mumtalakat holds the Bahrain government’s stakes in some of the country’s largest companies, including Gulf Air, Aluminum Bahrain, National Bank of Bahrain, and the Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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