A Kuwaiti shaikh is seeking $21.4 million (Dh78.6 million) in allegedly unpaid fees from Swiss investment bank UBS AG after he lobbied to make the bank lead adviser on one of the largest Middle Eastern acquisition deals in recent years, according to claims in Dubai International Financial Centre court filings.
Shaikh Mesha'al Jarah Al Sabah, who the documents say was assistant undersecretary in Kuwait's Ministry of Interior in charge of state security between 1995 and 2002, is suing UBS's DIFC branch claiming he was not paid for helping the bank secure a mandate for the sale in 2010 of the African assets of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co, better known as Zain.
UBS was ultimately paid around $60 million for its work as an adviser to Zain, according to a statement of claim posted on the courts' website. The deal saw Zain Africa sold to India's Bharti Airtel for an enterprise value of $10.7 billion in June 2010.
UBS said Shaikh Mesha'al's claim was without merit.
"UBS takes note of the claim," the bank said in a statement. "UBS remains of the view that this claim is without merit and will therefore defend itself against any such allegations."
Zawya Dow Jones first reported on Shaikh Mesha'al's suit in February, but the statement of claim recently made public contains a more detailed set of allegations.
UBS has operations across the Arab Gulf, but one of its main regional offices is in the DIFC.
Shaikh Mesha'al's case against UBS hinges on a verbal contract he claims he entered into with UBS on July 9, 2009. A meeting was allegedly held on that date between the shaikh and two UBS executives, during which UBS said it "required assistance from [Shaikh Mesha'al] in order to be appointed by Zain and act as its investment banking adviser in the sale of Zain Africa," the shaikh's claim alleges.
By the time of the first alleged meeting, however, UBS was already an adviser to Zain, according to published reports at the time. Citing a person familiar with the matter, Dow Jones reported on June 30, more than a week beforehand, that Zain had hired UBS to review its African operations in preparation for a possible sale.
Lutfi & Co said in a statement that whatever pre-existing relationship UBS may have had with Zain, it was "very much uncertain" if the bank could have successfully helped arrange the Zain Africa deal without Shaikh Mesha'al's help.
The claim says UBS and Shaikh Mesha'al agreed among other things that Shaikh Mesha'al would assist and advise UBS on all phases of the transaction.
"It was a term of the agreement that, in return for discharging his obligations, a fee of between 0.1 per cent and 0.2 per cent of the total sale value of Zain Africa would be payable to [Shaikh Mesha'al] by [UBS] upon completion of the transaction," the statement of claim says.
Hearings have yet to be scheduled in the case, according to the DIFC courts' website, and UBS has not yet responded to the allegations in court.