Kuwait’s Global Investment House is working on approximately $600m-worth of investment banking mandates this year to-date, and is aiming to win more before the end of 2014.

The investment group completed an extensive $1.7bn restructuring process in mid-2013 after being hit badly by the financial crisis.

The company is now returning to profitability and is looking to grow its investment banking capabilities as well as its asset management and brokerage units, Maha al-Ghunaim, group CEO of the Kuwaiti company tells MEED.

“[Investment banking] is an important pillar within Global that we need to maintain and grow because we have a strong competitive advantage,” she says.

“If these mandates come to closure before year-end we should be able to have a very positive year for the company,” she adds.

Advising on mergers and acquisitions is an additional growth area within its investment banking unit being targeted by the bank.

“We are looking at quite a lot of M&A transactions,” says Al-Ghunaim, adding that Global is currently working on an merger and acquisition (M&A) deal in Oman where the buyer is set to be from another GCC country.

The company had returned to profitability by the end of 2013 posting a net profit of KD1.9m ($6.7m) following the conclusion of the investment firm’s second debt restructuring since 2009.

The group continued to post improved financial results in the first three months of 2014, with profits reaching KD3.1m compared to a loss of KD3.9m recorded in the first quarter of 2013.

Revenues in the first three months also grew to KWD6.1m, an increase of 86 per cent over the first quarter in 2013.

Al-Ghunaim says the growth is due to the company returning to focus on fee-based businesses such as investment banking, explaining that pre-crisis the company had “diverted” from its original fee-based business model.

The investment firm is also expanding its capabilities as it looks to boost profits.

The firm has launched a Special Situations Asset Management division and hired Orhan Osmansoy as chief executive officer in March 2014 to head up the new unit. He moved from the Abu Dhabi-based investment company The National Investor.

Osmansoy will oversee a special purpose vehicle (SPV), known as NAC Ventures, which was established as part of Global Investment House’s own debt restructuring last year.

After the investment bank delisted from the Kuwait Stock Exchange in 2013, it transferred its investment assets into the SPV.

The bank now manages this SPV and through it also offers advisory and management services for other companies restructuring debt or managing distressed assets.

Al-Ghunaim says, “We are looking to increase assets under management by helping companies and also banks which ended up owning assets through debt-to-asset swaps to manage these for them and turn them around.” 

She adds that the unit is currently pitching for new mandates and she is hoping to pursue this business more ‘aggressively’ from September 2014.

With the company’s debt now held in an SPV, Global Investment House is debt-free and fairly liquid.

“Forty-eight per cent of our balance sheet is cash or cash equivalent,” Al-Ghunaim says, adding that due to this favourable position the bank is unlikely to tap the market for additional funding in the near to medium term.