Arab and Western investors are setting up a new Kuwait-based company called Gulfinvest International, with capital of between

$70 million and $120 million, to invest in private and listed companies in the Arab world.

About half of Gulfinvest’s sponsors and some of its staff have come from the London-based investment company Capital Trust, which was bought out by a group of senior managers last year (see In Brief). Gulfinvest’s management team is to be headed by Kuwaiti businessman Abdul-Salam al-Awadi and by Faisal Kudsi, who was general manager of Capital Trust, but left after the buy out (MEED 26:7:96).

Gulfinvest’s corporate finance executive, Omar Fadli, says it will focus at first on two activities: supplying development capital to private businesses in the Levant and investing in quoted stocks in the Gulf. As privatisation takes off in the Gulf, it will also provide development capital for companies there.

Based in Kuwait, so as to count as a GCC firm for investment purposes, Gulfinvest will also have a London office. The latter will incorporate International Investment Trust, a small London-based company run by Kudsi which manages a portfolio of real estate. In three years’ time, Gulfinvest will go for a listing on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange. Fadli says it is too early to say whether the company will expand into other lines of business in

the future, although this is a possibility.

The 12 sponsors of Gulfinvest are mostly businessmen from the Gulf and the Levant, though Kredietbank Luxembourgeoise and the US’ Geometry Group are also involved. The sponsors will commit $20 million in capital, with another $50 million-100 million to be raised from a private placement that opened last month.

The intention is that at least three-quarters of the equity should come from the Middle East and the rest from the West. ‘We want to be an institution with a wide shareholder base as opposed to being a boutique,’ Fadli says. The company hopes to close the placement at the end of February and start work in April or May once it has been registered in Kuwait.