Unicorn spreads its wings

24 March 2006
Bahrain-based Unicorn Investment Bank (UIB) is negotiating to acquire a stake in Bank Islam Malaysia, as part of wider plans to diversify operations internationally from its Gulf base. The sharia-compliant bank is also close to completing a private placement and plans a subsequent initial public offering (IPO).

UIB, in partnership with Bank Muscat, is competing with Dubai Investment Group to acquire an effective 49 per cent stake in Bank Islam for $330 million-350 million. 'One of our strategic business lines is strategic M&A [merger and acquisition] activity and we have already identified a number of possible targets, one or two in the Gulf and one or two in the West,' says UIB managing director and chief executive officer Majid al-Refai. 'I'm not interested in being one of the top banks in the Gulf. We want to create a global presence.'

UIB is close to launching a $150 million private equity fund to invest internationally in small industries. 'We have almost reached close on two US deals, two in the UAE and one in Jordan,' says Al-Refai.

The bank is also working on a Gulf Springs Fund to invest in GCC real estate. 'Developers will invest in the fund, which will then put double the amount invested into their project, creating a mutual interest between the two sides,' says Al-Refai. Major developers from Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already on board, and $110 million has been raised out of a target of $150 million-200 million.

UIB is aiming to complete a $300 million-400 million private placement by the end of April, while an IPO, which could raise a similar amount, is due to be staged by the end of 2006 or in the first half of 2007. UIB is a full-service Islamic investment bank which launched in mid-2004 (MEED 24:6:05).

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