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Kenneth Moelis, chief executive of Moelis & Company.
Kenneth Moelis, chief executive of Moelis & Company.

Moelis & Company joins Dubai finance hub

Moelis & Company, a New York investment bank that advised on Dubai World's debt restructuring, is establishing a permanent office in Dubai.

Moelis & Company, a New York investment bank that advised on Dubai World's US$24.9 billion (Dh91.45bn) debt restructuring, is establishing a permanent office in Dubai.

Its office in the Dubai International Financial Centre is the seventh for the company, founded in 2007 by Ken Moelis, the chief executive, and follows its registration with the financial free zone's regulator to conduct business there.

"Opening an office in Dubai clearly demonstrates our continued commitment to the region and allows us to more effectively serve our clients in the region with a local presence," Mr Moelis said.

Moelis has been active in the region since mid-2008 and is partly owned by the Kuwait Projects Company, known as KIPCO. One of the bank's first jobs for Dubai was advising on the restructuring of the CityCenter project in Las Vegas beginning in 2009.

Dubai World, a government-owned conglomerate, had agreed to put $2.7bn into the project in 2007, according to reports that year, and pledged to buy up to $2.4bn of shares in MGM Mirage, the company behind it.

By the beginning of 2009, however, the project's backers were scrambling to sort out its financing and meet a deadline for opening the complex later that year.

CityCenter opened on schedule, and Moelis's ties with Dubai were strengthened when the Government invited the company to advise it on Dubai World's financial restructuring.

Dubai World announced in November 2009 it would seek a standstill on debt repayments as it sought an extension of maturities from banks. Dubai World and the Government both hired advisers to co-ordinate the debt talks and analyse the company's finances. The advisers included Moelis, the global accounting and consulting firm Deloitte, and AlixPartners, an advisory practice with expertise in restructurings.

With the $24.9bn debt restructuring almost complete - banks have agreed to the deal but have yet to sign the final documents - many of Dubai World's advisers are sticking around. Deloitte has long had a presence in the emirate, and Aidan Birkett, the Deloitte veteran who was Dubai World's chief restructuring officer, is staying. AlixPartners opened an office in Dubai last year.

Augusto Sasso, Moelis' head of MENA investment banking, is heading up the Dubai office. Mr Sasso will report to Mark Aedy, the head of EMEA investment banking.

"We expect MENA to experience a high rate of economic growth, increasing financial markets activity and significant cross-border capital flows for a sustained period of time," Mr Aedy said.

Other senior Moelis bankers, including Charles Noel-Johnson, one of the bank's managing directors, have relocated to the region and will work at the office.

"Our new Dubai office gives us the opportunity to further extend our capabilities across the region," Mr Sasso said.

The Dubai Government said on Monday that Dubai World's board approved a budget for this year and next, without providing further details.

The company is aiming to generate high profits from ports, dry docks and economic free-zone businesses during the period, while working to improve the efficiency of its operations.

 

afitch@thenational.ae

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