HSBC-Backed Fund Buys Omani Power Stake from GDF

DUBAI (Reuters) – A regional infrastructure fund led by HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) on Monday said it bought a 32.8 percent stake in an Omani power project from French utilities giant GDF Suez (GSZ.PA).

The MENA private equity fund, which is backed by HSBC, Waha Capital WAHA.AD and Dubai International Capital, will pay $26.5 million for the stake in United Power Company UPC.OM, becoming its largest shareholder, it said in a statement.

The fund’s move underlines the growing appetite from Middle-East-based private equity houses to invest in regional infrastructure projects.

Gulf Arab oil exporters had amassed enormous surpluses from an oil price rally that started in 2002 and enabled them to invest in building infrastructure at home, including power, healthcare and transportation, to help diversify their risk.

Established in 2006, MENA Infrastructure Fund is a $500 million private equity player seeking to invest in utilities and transportation projects.

The UPC stake is the fund’s second acquisition after buying a stake in Egypt’s Alexandria International Container Terminals last year.

The power company owns a 270 megawatt power station in Manah, 180 kilometres south west of Oman’s capital Muscat. It is debt-free and there is room for future expansion, according to the statement.

UPC’s shares ended 0.13 percent higher on Muscat’s bourse .MSI outperforming the market which fell 0.56 percent on Monday. (Reporting by Nicolas Parasie; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)