Abu Dhabi fund Aabar Investments has raised its stake in Arabtec Holding to 53 percent, a market official said on Sunday, effectively taking control of Dubai's largest builder after a failed US$1.7bn 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 been buying up shares in recent weeks through subsidiaries and owned a 10.45-percent in Arabtec as at end April.
An official at the Dubai Financial Market 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 surged 94 percent year-to-date, plunged 6.4 percent at 0925 GMT on the Dubai bourse over fears that the company may delist and that minority shareholders' interests would be overlooked.
Aabar itself shocked retail investors in 2010 when it delisted from the Abu Dhabi bourse as part of a full buyout by state-owned investment vehicle 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 as this point," said Haissam Arabi, fund manager at Dubai-based Gulfmena Investments.
Both Arabtec and Aabar officials did not return calls or reply to email enquiries seeking comment.
Aabar tried to acquire a 70-percent stake in Arabtec in 2010 in a US$1.7bn deal that was eventually cancelled.
However, both firms said they would continue to work together in the future and form strategic partnerships. Aabar first raised its Arabtec stake to 5.3 percent in March and later doubled it to 10.5 percent through another subsidiary.
"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.
Arabic daily Alrroya quoted Aabar Chairman Khadem al-Qubaisi as saying the sovereign fund had taken the controlling stake in an interview on Saturday.
"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.
Qubaisi said the investment was "a successful opportunity," adding Aabar is planning to award more real estate contracts to Arabtec in Abu Dhabi. In April, it gave the builder a US$60m 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 US$3bn contract to expand its international airport.
In April, Arabtec appointed four Aabar executives to its board, including Al-Qubaisi.