x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mubadala-GE Capital venture in growth mode

Mubadala-GE Capital has committed $4 billion in financing less than two years after the commercial finance joint venture's founding.

Ron Herman, the chief executive of Mubadala-GE Capital, says the company had arranged financing of $2 billion last year. Andrew Henderson / The National
Ron Herman, the chief executive of Mubadala-GE Capital, says the company had arranged financing of $2 billion last year. Andrew Henderson / The National

Mubadala-GE Capital is in growth mode after lining up more than US$4 billion (Dh14.69bn) of loans and other financing in less than two years of existence.

The $8bn commercial finance joint venture between Mubadala Development and General Electric, one of the world's biggest business conglomerates, was "going very well", said Ron Herman, the chief executive. The company had lined up about $2bn of financing for companies by the end of last year and had already doubled that amount this year, he said.

"We were profitable last year and will have larger profits this year," said Mr Herman, who was a 25-year veteran at GE before moving to Abu Dhabi. "So our business is healthy."

Mr Herman declined to say exactly how much money the venture was making, but the business appears to be entering a new phase of expansion. The company has done more than 100 deals and has suffered no defaults.

It has about 80 employees and is outgrowing its offices on Muroor Road in the capital. A move to Sowwah Square, the emirate's new financial district on Sowwah Island, is scheduled for the end of this year.

"We're getting ready to move to Sowwah Square because we're outgrowing our offices here," Mr Herman said. "We'll be one of the early tenants in Sowwah Square, and we're looking forward to move there in the fourth quarter."

Mubadala-GE Capital was the cornerstone of a partnership between Mubadala, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, and GE begun in 2008.

The companies each agreed to put $4bn of equity into the project over five years, while also partnering on clean energy research, aviation technology and education.

The joint venture offers a range of specialised financing for small and mid-sized private businesses in the region and globally. It focuses on industries including power, water, oil and gas, energy, health care and aviation.

Its launch was delayed for more than a year, but it got off to a running start after receiving a Central Bank licence last year. It has committed to about $4bn worth of financing, and companies have drawn down almost $3bn of that funding.

"We want to be a world-class commercial finance company," Mr Herman said. "That means we'll provide financing to businesses as well as anyone else in the world."

For now, Mubadala-GE Capital is doing most of its business outside of the Middle East, piggybacking on GE Capital's large global pipeline of deals. The plan, however, is to shift increasingly towards the Middle East and Turkey as opportunities arise in the region.

The company is already providing financing for some of the UAE's biggest buyout companies and arranging loans for manufacturing and industrial businesses, among other deals. It has even started financing small businesses in the country, including a hospital in Al Ain and an established dental practice in Dubai.

"Priority number one is the UAE and becoming a leader in specialised finance in the UAE, and that's where we're spending most of our time," Mr Herman said. "As we look forward in the near term, we'll focus on the two mega-economies outside of the UAE - Turkey and Saudi. But right now, the message is we're very focused on building our specialised finance business in the UAE."

Mubadala-GE Capital expects plenty of opportunity ahead as regional businesses look to refinance short-term debt into longer-term financing, he said.

While banks often focus on the short term, unsecured credit, the venture is giving companies the option of refinancing or paying for large investments with longer-dated financing.

afitch@thenational.ae