Asma Capital buys $147mn stake in Utico's unit

Saudi’s PIF denies last week’s reports that it was planning to buy a stake in the utility company

Asma capital, Utico, News

Bahrain-based investment firm Asma Capital has agreed to buy a stake in the water business of private United Arab Emirates utility company Utico in a deal worth $147 million, the companies said on Sunday.

Asma is buying "a significant minority stake", they said without revealing the exact size. The deal includes equity and project finance and will be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

The purchase is being conducted through the IDB Infrastructure Fund II, which is managed by Asma Capital. Asma is owned by sovereign institutions including Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and Public Pension Agency, and the ministries of finance of Bahrain and Brunei.

Asma aims to invest further with Utico in its other projects and businesses, Asma said without elaborating. Utico, which has investments in the UAE, said it hoped to become involved in projects overseas; in August, it announced it would invest about $185 million to more than double its water desalination capacity in two years.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), its top sovereign wealth fund, on Thursday denied that it was buying a stake in Utico.

"An official at the fund said that the news about entering into a binding agreement with Utico is baseless and unfounded." the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

On Wednesday, Utico Chief Executive Richard Menezes told Reuters that the PIF had entered into a binding agreement with his company to buy a "significant minority stake".

On Thursday, Menezes told Reuters that the PIF was investing in Utico through the IDB Infrastructure Fund, whose anchor investors include the PIF as well as institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank.



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