Abu Dhabi fund Aabar Investments has raised its stake in Arabtec Holding to 53 percent, a market official said yesterday, effectively taking control of Dubai's largest builder after a failed $1.7 billion bid two years ago.
The state-owned fund, which owns stakes in high-profile names such as German carmaker Daimler, commodities trader Glencore and Italy's UniCredit, had bought Arabtec shares through subsidiaries in recent weeks and its stake stood at 10.45 percent in April.
An official at the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) said trade done on May 6, and settled on May 8, had lifted Aabar's position to 53 percent. The new shareholder structure will be updated on the bourse's website on Monday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Arabtec shares, which have soared 94 percent year-to-date, slumped 6.4 percent intraday amid fears the company may delist and minority shareholders' interests be overlooked. The stock ended down 5.76 percent.
Aabar rattled investors in 2010 when it delisted from the Abu Dhabi bourse, months after its $1.7 billion effort to buy 70 percent of Arabtec failed. The fund was taken private by its then-majority shareholder, International Petroleum Investments Corp. (IPIC).
"I don't think we are dealing with another Aabar/IPIC situation here - and that's probably why retail is selling off - but I do believe that given the important news and price action over the last few trading sessions, Arabtec needs to come out with clarification," said Haissam Arabi, fund manager at Gulfmena Investments.
Arabtec and Aabar officials did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement, the DFM said it does not disclose information about any investor or major shareholdings by any publishing method besides company profile pages on its website.
Arabic daily Alrroya quoted Aabar Chairman Khadem Al-Qubaisi on Saturday as saying the sovereign fund had taken the controlling stake.
"The company (Aabar) has bought a 23-percent stake directly from Arabtec during the last period, while it acquired the remaining 30 percent from other shareholders," Qubaisi, who is also Arabtec's newly-appointed chairman, was quoted as saying.
Al-Qubaisi said that the investment was "a successful opportunity," adding Aabar is planning to award more real estate contracts to Arabtec in Abu Dhabi.
Arabtec appointed four Aabar executives to its board last month, including Al-Qubaisi.
"It looks like Aabar has bought out the shares of Arabtec's founder and other shareholders in the company. When the stake build-up was being made, we knew it was coming," a Dubai based trader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Nasser Saidi, executive director of Dubai-based corporate governance body Hawkamah, said more legislation was needed to protect minority shareholders.
"If there's an appropriate legislation in place, that would help exchanges to ask for proper disclosures from companies that are involved in M&A," said Saidi, who is also chief economist at Dubai International Financial Centre.
ABU DHABI PROJECTS
Aabar first raised its Arabtec stake to disclosure levels in March when it emerged it owned 5.3 percent. It later doubled it to 10.5 percent through another subsidiary.
After the 2010 attempt to buy a major stake ended, both firms said they would continue to work together in the future and form strategic partnerships.
In April, Aabar gave the builder a $60 million contract to build a residential development in the oil-rich emirate.
Last week, the Abu Dhabi government identified an Arabtec consortium that includes Greek and Turkish firms as the preferred bidders for an estimated $3 billion contract to expand its international airport.