Dubai firm Abraaj applies for court-supervised restructuring

The Middle East’s largest private equity firm has filed for court-supervised restructuring to fight off compulsory liquidation amid accusations that it has mismanaged funds.

The application by Dubai-based Abraaj Holdings, filed in the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands Thursday, seeks to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as joint provisional liquidators. The appointment will impose a temporary block on the enforcement of the claims against the company, allowing a proposal to be presented to creditors for its supervised restructuring.

The voluntary filing, according to an Abraaj Group press release, “sets up orderly restructuring process that will maximize the value of the company for all stakeholders and an eventual return to normal operations.”

The embattled private equity firm, which at its peak managed $14 billion, has been in crisis amid investor accusations that it mismanaged their funds. The Financial Times reported that Abraaj “commingled investor funds with its own money” in its $1 billion health care fund, according to company audits. Abraaj has denied that it misused the funds.

Abraaj’s investors included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Finance Corp (IFC).

The move for the filing was made to stave off legal action by plaintiffs pushing to force the company into liquidation. Prior to the appointment of PwC, the Cayman court was scheduled to receive a petition from a Kuwaiti pension fund over a non-payment by Abraaj of a $100 million debt. A second claimant, asset management firm Auctus Fund, also issued a winding-up petition — a call to force an insolvent company into compulsory liquidation — over an unpaid debt of more than $100 million.

The restructuring plan aims to repay creditors by selling the company’s assets over time.

Abraaj Holdings Chairman Sean Cleary was positive about the move, saying in a statement, “Under the auspices of the Court, the situation has now been stabilized, and we can move forward to meet the firm’s commitments and restore confidence in the platform.”

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