Abraaj cancels annual Dubai investor forum – exclusive

The firm, which is undergoing a strategic review, plans to hold the annual meetings of its funds on a regional basis, Private Equity International has learned.

Abraaj Group has cancelled its annual investor week with limited partners at the end of March in Dubai and instead plans to meet with LPs on a regional basis, Private Equity International has learned.

The Dubai-headquartered firm is not going ahead with Abraaj Week – a six-day event that in the past has attracted more than 1,000 guests including business executives, academics and former deputy heads of state.

“Dear Investor, we would like to inform you that we will no longer be hosting the annual investor meeting in Dubai at the end of March. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused,” Mark Bourgeois, managing partner and global head of investor engagement, wrote in an email to clients on 8 March seen by PEI.

A spokeswoman for the firm confirmed Abraaj will hold the annual meetings for its current generation of funds as separate regional meetings in April. LPs will attend meetings in the region where their committed capital is being deployed. Investors have been notified of the change in format but the specific dates and venues for the meetings is yet to be determined, the spokeswoman added.

The firm’s website still lists Abraaj Week as set for 19-24 March.

Abraaj was thrust into the spotlight after media reports emerged in February saying the firm might have misappropriated money from its $1 billion 2015-vintage Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund. Two weeks later, Abraaj announced its founder and chief executive Arif Naqvi had stepped aside, passing leadership of the firm’s fund management business to two co-chief executives, Omar Lodhi and Selcuk Yorgancioglu.

The firm confirmed on 7 March it was suspending its flagship $6 billion Abraaj Private Equity Fund VI and was releasing LPs from their commitments to the vehicle.

Abraaj has held its annual investor meeting in Dubai for the last two years, most recently at the Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah Beach, a five-star luxury hotel that describes itself as a “beachfront oasis”.

At the event last year, the emerging markets giant unveiled its plan to launch a $6 billion global private equity fund that would draw on the expertise of its investment professionals around the world to back around 50 portfolio companies. The presentation was “compelling”, according to a service provider who was present.

Its 2016 event attracted Anshu Jain, the former chief executive of Deutsche Bank; Felipe Larrain, Chile’s former minister of finance and vice-president; and Ali Babacan, Turkey’s former deputy prime minister, according to Abraaj’s website.

In addition to investment-focused panel discussions and fireside chats, guests could attend tours of private art collections, architectural tours of Dubai, an art prize award ceremony and participate in talks on topics ranging art and philanthropy, entrepreneurship and digital technology.

The main event was the growth markets forum involving panel discussions on emerging markets. That day culminated in a gala dinner at the Armani Hotel, according to Abraaj’s website.

“It’s very sad,” said one Gulf-based private equity executive familiar with Abraaj, speaking about the firm’s recent travails. “It has been a different surprise every couple of weeks.”

– Isobel Markham contributed to this report.