ADIC ramps up activity levels

Far from feeling the impact of the slowdown, the firm is charging ahead with growth plans.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Company (ADIC) has had a busy month. In fact, it has had a busy 2009 so far.

In mid-April it announced the appointment of Alex Carré de Malberg, a former managing director at investment bank Rothschild, to lead a new independent advisory arm concentrating on mergers and acquisitions and capital-raising.

A week later, ADIC’s new head of private equity, Samir Assaad, was quoted in various media reports stating that the firm planned to launch “an international real estate fund and four different funds in four weeks” at a private equity forum in Abu Dhabi. He declined to give any details of the four other funds.

Most recently, at the beginning of May, ADIC and UBS Asset Management held a first close on their joint venture infrastructure fund, the ADIC-UBS Infrastructure Fund I. The fund, which was launched in February 2008, closed on $250 million – almost halfway to its $600 million target. Fund I is planned as the first of several funds to be launched over a three-year period by the two firms, with a second infrastructure fund targeting $1 billion also planned.

The arrival of the economic downturn in the Middle East around October 2008 does not seem to have given ADIC pause for thought – in fact, the firm has stepped up the pace as some of its regional peers have backed off.

In March this year ADIC appointed its first CIO, Anders Ljungqvist, to look after its proprietary investments, effectively separating their management from the group’s third party business. At the time, a spokesperson for ADIC said growing the blossoming third party fund management business – and moving further away from its former set-up with the Abu Dhabi government as sole financial sponsor – was a priority for the firm in 2009.

When Samaan was appointed in March, replacing Robert Wages who left the firm in January, ADIC said in a statement he would “lead a charge for buyouts in the Middle East and North Africa at a time when the global economic crisis is starving promising companies of capital”.

Similarly, while the focus of the firm is on the Middle East and North Africa, Samaan reportedly said at the Abu Dhabi private equity forum this was a “fantastic” time for ADIC to get into global real estate.

All the indications are that ADIC, jointly owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, plans to use the opportunities created by the economic downturn to establish itself as a heavyweight in private equity, real estate and infrastructure. Watch this space.