Bahrain-based Unicorn Investment Bank (UIB)has closed a $52.5 million fund to invest in real estate in Saudi Arabia. The recently formed bank is also planning to increase capital by means of a private placement and an initial public offering (IPO) during 2006.

The two-year closed-ended fund will invest in a project under way to develop 250 housing units in Ishbilya in northern Riyadh. The developer is Saudi-based Dar al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company, which has also taken a 30 per cent stake in the fund. ‘Saudi Arabia is in dire need of housing and we are pleased to be involved in a project like this rather than more flashy real estate schemes,’ says Majid al-Refai, chief executive officer of UIB. Gulf Bankacted as placement adviser.

The bank is planning a private placement in the first quarter of 2006 followed by an IPO in the second half of the year. The share sale will be done through the Bahrain Stock Exchange, with future listings being considered on two GCC bourses and on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). UIB is also working on the launch of a $250 million-300 million global private equity fund.