Abraaj expands in Southeast Asia

Dubai-headquartered private equity firm Abraaj Capital is planning to expand its operations in Southeast Asia in a bid to capitalise on the region’s strong economic growth.

Abraaj Capital, one of the biggest private equity groups active in the Middle East and North Africa, is in the process of expanding its geographical footprint according to Omar Lodhi, senior partner and chief executive of the group’s Asian arm.

Lodhi revealed to Private Equity International the firm has established a “relatively lean seed team” of four professionals who have moved from its Dubai headquarters to a new operation in Mumbai, India, which opened a month ago. Abraaj is also actively recruiting locally-based executives with investment experience in the country, Lodhi said. The firm expects to build a team of between six and eight executives by year end, he said.

Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and even other ASEAN block countries, offer significant growth potential.

Omar Lodhi

Abraaj has adopted a similar strategy in Singapore, where Lodhi is seeking to recruit executives for its regional headquarters. Between the two offices, Lodhi estimated the overall team would be about 12-strong.

Abraaj already has offices in Dubai, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Lodhi moved to Singapore in January to establish Abraaj’s fledgling operation there, having been appointed chief executive of Abraaj Capital Asia. He joined Abraaj in 2005, and until 2009 headed the firm’s three investment management teams with a main focus on Turkey and the Gulf.

From the Singapore headquarters, he is responsible for the firm’s operations across South East Asia and India, as well as investor relations coverage across the Asia-Pacific region.

Lodhi also revealed plans to make a senior hire for an Indonesia-based office to head a team there. An office in Jakarta is expected to open “within the year”.

He explained Abraaj’s geographic expansion strategy: “Having grown up operating in the broader MENA region, and working with family offices and entrepreneurs, we felt our strategy was portable to other geographies which shared business and cultural similarities. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, and even other ASEAN [Association of South East Asian Nations] block countries, offer significant growth potential.

“We’re aiming to leverage existing portfolio companies in MENASA by helping them grown into Asian markets. We’re also looking at target companies in these new geographies which have the potential to tap into Middle Eastern markets,” he added.