DIFC Investments (DIFCI), the investment arm of the company running Dubai's financial free zone, has likely sold software company SmartStream Technologies, resulting in a US$68.8m impairment provision, JP Morgan said in a research note.
DIFCI, which has been grappling with a debt pile including a US$1.25bn Islamic bond due in June, began seeking buyers for SmartStream in 2010 to raise much-needed cash.
In a footnote in its 2011 financial statements last week, DIFCI said it sold one of its discontinued businesses held-for-sale after the financial year ended to a 'related party.' It did not name the business.
"This sale could only be of SmartStream given the magnitude of impairment," JP Morgan analyst Zafar Nazim said in the note, adding that other businesses held for-sale by DIFCI had minimal associated goodwill balances.
The "related party" could be the Dubai government or Investment Corporation of Dubai, the analyst said.
DIFCI Chairman Abdulla Mohammed Saleh was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
SmartStream helps investment banks and fund managers with the back and middle-office processing of stock, bond and derivative trades. It has said its clients include three-quarters of the world's top 100 banks.
DIFCI bought the firm in 2007 from private equity firm TA Associates, months after poor market conditions forced TA to scrap plans to list the company. That deal valued SmartStream at about GBP200m, or US$410m at prevailing exchange rates, according to Thomson Reuters data.
SmartStream's parent company D-Clear, which is listed in the 2011 financial statement as 100 percent owned by DIFCI, was most likely disposed of during the early months of 2012, the analyst said.
"The goodwill impairment also implies that SmartStream was likely sold at a price less than our earlier estimate of US$350m," Nazim wrote.
DIFCI also sold an IT distribution firm last year, Despec International for US$27m, paid in three installments to 2013, it said last week.
The investment firm swung to profit in 2011 and said it was confident of successfully refinancing the upcoming Islamic bond maturity.
Its sukuk obligation has been highlighted by analysts as one of the most challenging refinancings in the Gulf Arab region this year, given the size of the maturity and the firm's limited cash position