x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Kuwaiti firm targets Carlyle in $25m claim

A Kuwaiti investment company sues Carlyle Group to recover a $25m investment which went sour, alleging that it did not have a licence to sell securities in Kuwait.

A Kuwaiti investment company wants a US court to allow it to pursue legal action against Carlyle Group in the Arabian Gulf state.

National Industries Group (NIG), owned by one of Kuwait's biggest merchant families, is taking legal action to recover a US$25 million (Dh91.8m) investment wiped out by the financial crisis, alleging a unit of the US private equity giant was not legally allowed to sell it securities.

"NIG argues that the investment contract is void because Carlyle, despite doing business for years in the Middle East, has never had a securities licence in Kuwait," the firm said.

Carlyle, based in the US, filed a court action that was due to be heard in Delaware but NIG has argued the dispute should be heard in Kuwait, where it alleges Carlyle lacked the licence to pitch the deal.

NIG made the investment in Carlyle Capital Corporation, an investment fund based in Guernsey, in 2006. The fund, which collapsed two years later, was one of the most high-profile victims of the global financial crisis - despite being designed by Carlyle Group to invest only in safe assets.

"Not only did Carlyle salespeople repeatedly misrepresent the safety of the underlying investments and the conservative parameters for managing the fund, but they failed to disclose that Carlyle, which bills itself as a Middle East expert, lacked the necessary licence to even legally offer the investments in Kuwait," NIG claimed.

Court filings provided by NIG argue selling securities without a licence nullified the transaction, which it argues would allow NIG to recover the entirety of its $25m investment under Kuwaiti law.

NIG has asked a Delaware court hearing the case to dismiss it and for the case to be heard in Kuwait instead.

Carlyle Capital Corp defaulted in March 2008 and collapsed later that month after the implosion of the US property market caused the value of the assets backing the transaction to plunge.

The fixed-income fund, which according to its financial statements held $22.3 billion in investment assets in September 2007, was designed to invest in safe assets but its high level of leverage became an Achilles' heel as a result of the property downturn.

"It appears unlikely that there will be any distribution paid to shareholders in respect of their investment and that the shares are therefore unlikely to have any value," the fund's liquidators said in a message to investors in 2009. NIG launched fraud claims in Kuwait later that year.

However, this month, Carlyle Group brought an action in the US state of Delaware in a bid to have the case heard there.

Among the fund's initial investors were Carlyle Group's founders, Dan D'Aniello, Bill Conway and David Rubenstein, NIG's court documents say.

Mr Rubenstein later met with NIG's managers after they insisted Carlyle refund their investment in the deal.

Carlyle Group could not be reached for comment.

NIG said if Carlyle was found to have lacked the securities licence needed to operate in Kuwait, the case may have implications for other unhappy Middle East investors who invested with the company.

Kuwait's NIG is among a number of investment companies to have been hard hit by the financial crisis, having borrowed cheap capital to fund asset purchases in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Many Kuwaiti financial companies have since faced difficulties in attempting to refinance bonds and sukuk coming due for repayment after their access to credit dried up.

ghunter@thenational.ae