Abraaj boosts MENA totals with $545m deal

In a deal more than quadrupling the volume of private equity investment in the Middle East, Abraaj has taken a 49% stake in Network International.

Middle East private equity player Abraaj Capital has single-handedly boosted private equity investment levels in the Middle East this year in a major deal with the gulf region's largest bank.

Abraaj has invested  AED2 billion (€415 million; $545 million) in a 49 percent stake in Network International, the credit card processing arm of Emirates NBD bank.

The deal represents the year’s largest for private equity in the Middle East. Even with it, 2010 has only experienced $720 million-worth of deal volume in the region, according to data gathered by Dealogic.

Middle East: ending
the year with a bang

Abraaj’s chief executive officer, Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, said in a statement Network International would serve well as a platform for future growth, citing a shift from cash-based to electronic payment transactions in the region.

It is also the first investment coming out of Abraaj’s flagship fund, Abraaj Buyout Fund IV, which is looking to soon close on $2 billion. The fund originally had a target size of $4 billion but lowered the mark due to a tighter fundraising environment.

Emirates NBD was advised by Morgan Stanley and law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, while Abraaj Capital was advised by FT Advisors and law firm Allen & Overy.

Dubai-based Abraaj Capital is the largest private equity group in the MENASA region, according to the statement. Since inception in 2002, the firm has raised roughly $7 billion.