MENA IN BRIEF

STRONG START FOR INFRASTRUCTURE FUND
Global infrastructure specialist Macquarie Group and the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank have already raised more than half of their $1 billion infrastructure joint venture fund. The ADCB Macquarie Infrastructure Fund has obtained a $500 million anchor investment from UAE-based Al Hail Holding and a further $130 million from the fund's two sponsors and other GCC-based institutions. The fund will invest in traditional infrastructure sectors such as roads, water and wastewater utilities, ports, and airports.

QINVEST TURNS TO PRIVATE EQUITY
Islamic investment bank QInvest is planning a private equity fund focused on the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, for which it hopes to hold a first close in the first quarter of 2009. The fund marks the bank's entrance into private equity fund management, though it did last month close a QAR728 million ($200 million) Sharia-compliant mezzanine real estate fund in partnership with Qatar-based investment bank Amwal and private equity firm Shuaa Capital.

BNP TO ADDRESS FUNDING GAP
BNP Paribas Investment Partners, the asset management arm of French bank BNP Paribas, has launched a $300 million private equity fund with the aim of investing in between nine and 14 small to medium-sized businesses in the Middle East and North Africa. The firm's chief executive for the MENA region, Tariq al-Sanahiji, says businesses in the MENA region have less debt than comparable businesses in other regions and have traditionally found it hard to obtain growth capital from local banks.

UAE PRIVATE EQUITY FACES MODEL SHIFT
Private equity in the UAE is not immune to the global financial crisis and will experience a “natural shift in its business model” over the next three to five years, according to a survey by consultants Dun & Bradstreet. Respondents expected a slowdown in deal flow leading to fewer, larger deals. The survey also suggested a possible consolidation of GPs as well as a move to a greater emphasis on buyouts, sophisticated financial products and secondary sales.

INVESTCORP CUTS COSTS
Redundancies in the Middle East have demonstrated that emerging markets will not escape the effects of the global downturn unscathed. Bahrain-headquartered alternatives group Investcorp announced plans to reduce its headcount by 20 percent in a bid to cut costs. Job cuts will affect Investcorp's three offices, based in Bahrain, London and New York, and are likely to cut across the group's various business lines of private equity, real estate, hedge funds and technology, according to a source close to the situation.

CITADEL RAMPS UP COMMUNICATIONS EFFORT
Cairo-based private equity firm Citadel Capital has appointed Ghada Hammouda as its head of corporate communications. Hammouda will be responsible for the firm's communications strategy as it seeks to expand its investor base beyond the Middle East and North Africa. Prior to joining Citadel, Hammouda spent 15 years as a senior executive and consultant in New York for various companies, including brand management firm Ogilvy & Mather and advertising agency Ayer & Partners.

SHUAA SLIMS DUBAI HEADCOUNT
Shuaa Capital, the Dubai-based investment bank which has launched a variety of private equity and real estate funds through subsidiaries, is cutting nine percent of its Dubai workforce. The bank declined to comment on whether the cuts would affect its private equity arm, Shuaa Partners, which has closed two funds: the $200 million Shuaa Partners Fund I in 2005 and the $100 million Frontier Opportunities Fund I, closed in 2007.

RASMALA NEARS $350M TARGET
The private equity arm of Dubai-based Rasmala Investments expects to close its second fund soon on $350 million. It held a $120 million first close in November, and Tamer Bazzari, deputy chief executive, said he was confident the fund would reach its $350 million target “in the next few months”. The Sharia-compliant fund will focus on mid-cap investment opportunities in Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and has a target internal rate of return of 25 percent per annum.