Belfast Telegraph

Dubai Financial doubles stake in Marfin Investment Group

By Danny Fortson

Dubai Financial Group has agreed to nearly double its stake in Marfin Investment Group (MIG), southern Europe's largest private equity firm.

The deal is the second of its kind in as many days for the Middle East emirate. It comes after Dubai International Capital, the emirate's private equity fund, paid $1.25bn (£600m) for a minority stake in the New York hedge fund giant Och-Ziff.

The manoeuvres are the latest in a flurry of activity by Dubai as it seeks to branch out beyond the Middle East to invest reserves that have swollen thanks to rec-ord oil prices. Under the deal, Dubai Financial said it had applied to the Central Bank of Cyp-rus for permission to increase its stake in MIG from 9.6 to 16 per cent. That would entail an investment of ¿374m (£261m). The deal comes in addition to the ¿237m the group shelled out yesterday to increase to 19.9 per cent its holding in Marfin Popular Bank.

Dubai Financial, which is run by executive chairman Soud Ba'alawy, bought the shares from Andreas Vgenopoulos, founder of Marfin Popular Bank, a retail bank. In July, he led the ¿5.2bn public offering of its private equity arm MIG in one of Eur-ope's largest floats of the year. MIG has said it intends to gear that up with another ¿10bn in debt, endowing it with ¿15bn to invest in buyouts throughout south-eastern Europe. MIG's holdings include RKB, a Serbian grocery chain, and OTE, the Greek mobile phone company.

Under the investment deal, Mr Vgenopoulos has agreed to become chairman of Dubai Financial Group's south-eastern Eur-ope business for five years. Mr Vgenopoulos has in the past said he wants to build Marfin Popular Bank into the largest in southern Europe within four years.

Dubai backs the idea. "During his term [as chairman], Mr Vgenopoulos is expected to lead an aggressive expansion of these companies in their respective areas of activity, appoint and supervise his successors and an expanding management team," the company said in a statement.

Belfast Telegraph