x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Mubadala sells joint venture to UK firm

Mubadala Development of Abu Dhabi is selling a commercial property joint venture it took full control of less than nine months ago.

Serco has acquired a commercial property joint venture from Mubadala Development. The UK company's contracts in the UAE include a facilities management deal for Dubai Metro stations, the UAE University in Al Ain and the New York University campus in Abu Dhabi. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Serco has acquired a commercial property joint venture from Mubadala Development. The UK company's contracts in the UAE include a facilities management deal for Dubai Metro stations, the UAE University in Al Ain and the New York University campus in Abu Dhabi. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Mubadala Development has sold a commercial property joint venture less than nine months after paying Dh83.6 million (US$22.76m) to take full control of it.

The buyer is Serco, a property management and outsourcing company in the UK. It is taking over the joint venture, called John Buck International (JBI), for an undisclosed price, according to a statement.

For Serco, the acquisition adds to an already substantial presence in the Middle East. The company has facilities management contracts for Dubai Metro stations, the UAE University in Al Ain and the new New York University campus in Abu Dhabi.

"We have had a long history of working with governments and the private sector similar to JBI's existing client base, and we can also bring to them Serco's global knowledge and proven management capability," said Zafar Raja, the chief executive of Serco Middle East.

A Mubadala spokesman declined to elaborate on how the transaction fits into the company's plans. Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government, created the JBI joint venture in 2008 with The John Buck Company, a Chicago property developer.

Originally, Mubadala owned 51 per cent of JBI and John Buck owned the rest. JBI was tasked with the development of Sowwah Square, Abu Dhabi's new financial district, as well as with managing other Mubadala-linked projects. In conjunction with the joint venture, Mubadala also bought 24.9 per cent of the John Buck Company, a stake it still held as of the end of last year.

This April, however, Mubadala appeared poised to invest further in JBI, agreeing to buy the remaining 49 per cent for Dh83.6m, according to its mid-year financial statements. Yet it sold the entire company yesterday in a move described by Serco as a means of expanding its footprint and strengthening ties to Mubadala by taking over JBI's property management contracts.

"We are delighted to strengthen our [facilities management] capabilities, extend our local expertise to new markets across the Middle East and deepen our long-standing business relationship with Mubadala," Mr Raja said.

JBI employs more than 130 people and has facilities management contracts for numerous Abu Dhabi government agencies, as well as Sowwah Square, Zayed University and new campuses of the Paris Sorbonne University and New York University, all of which are in Abu Dhabi.

afitch@thenational.ae