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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Abraaj asked to vacate a DIFC office by end of the month

Dubai-based buyout firm given notice to vacate an office in the financial centre after lease ends 

Abraaj occupies two office floors in a building within the DIFC's Gate Village. Jeff Topping / The National
Abraaj occupies two office floors in a building within the DIFC's Gate Village. Jeff Topping / The National

Abraaj, once the biggest private equity firm in the Middle East, has been asked to vacate an office in Dubai's financial hub, according to sources, as liquidators begin to dismantle its operations.

Dubai International Financial Centre has sent Abraaj Group's Dubai-based entity a notification to leave one of its offices in the financial free zone by the end of September after the lease expired and the company did not renew the contract. Some of the employees will move into other Abraaj offices that it still rents in the DIFC .

Abraaj occupies two office floors in a building within the DIFC's Gate Village. Additionally, another office takes up part of a separate floor, the lease for which has expired without renewal by the company.

Abraaj, which once managed about $14 billion in investments with a focus on emerging markets, is in the middle of a court-appointed liquidation. The company started to collapse this year following allegations of misuse of investors' funds.

At its peak, Abraaj operated out of 20 offices worldwide including Latin America, Asia and Africa, according to its website. The private equity company has been registered in the DIFC since March 2006, with a licence from the Dubai Financial Services Authority and its commercial licence expires in March 2019, according to the DIFC website.

The DIFC Authority, which oversees the emirate's financial free zone, said it is unable to comment on specific matters related to its clients.

"We will continue to work with all parties to achieve the best outcomes for investors and the DIFC," it said in a statement. "This will naturally include reviewing premises requirements when leases expire or need to be reviewed.”

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Joint provisional liquidators PwC declined to comment while Deloitte did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The DFSA said it had no comment beyond the DIFC Authority's statement. Abraaj Group founder Arif Naqvi will not comment as the matter is one for the joint provisional liquidators, his spokesman said.

Ever since four investors in Abraaj’s $1 billion Growth Markets Health Fund – including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the UK’s CDC Group and Proparco Group of France – alleged mismanagement of funds in February and hired Ankura Consulting to find out where their money had gone, Abraaj’s reputation has unravelled. Abraaj has denied allegations of misused funds.

The key focus for provisional liquidators is to pay down its estimated $1bn of debt by selling funds and other parts of the business. Investigators are trying to find out what happened to investors’ money amid reports of co-mingling funds to help Abraaj meet its cashflow needs.

Some companies including Kuwait's Agility (with Centerbridge Partners of New York) and Abu Dhabi Financial Group have expressed an interest in buying parts of Abraaj's business.