Abraaj opens in Riyadh

Sari Anabtawi will head the MENASA-focused firm’s fourth office outside the UAE. He leads a seven-strong team, which will source investment opportunities and work to grow the businesses of the firm’s portfolio companies in the kingdom and in the region.

Dubai-based Abraaj Capital has opened an office in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The firm also has offices in Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan.

Sari Anabtawi

Sari Anabtawi, Saudi Arabia country head and an executive director of Abraaj, will lead a team of seven to identify investment opportunities as well as work with the firm’s existing portfolio companies.

Prior to his current role, Anabtawai was the chief executive officer of Abraaj Investor Coverage, which manages Abraaj's relationships with its investors. Before that, he was based in Dubai as the head of regional origination, as well as the Middle East and North Africa director for corporate and investment banking at Standard Bank. Anabtawi has also held senior roles at firms including Drexel Burnham Lambert, Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley.

“As the largest Arab economy and the centre of the energy world, Saudi Arabia offers substantial investment opportunities,” Amr Dabbagh, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, said in a statement. 

As the largest Arab economy and the centre of the energy world, Saudi Arabia offers substantial investment opportunities.

Amr Dabbagh

Sectors including transportation, logistics, food, healthcare and education are underserved in terms of existing supply leading to rising demand, which is also driven by a growing population and new government policies that promote private investment, Arif Naqvi, the founder and chief executive officer of Abraaj Capital, added.

“Many of our investors come from Saudi Arabia,” said Anabtawi. “They have long been loyal to us and we are loyal to them,” he noted.

The chairman of Abraaj Capital is Sheikh Abdulrahman Ali al-Turki, the owner of ATCO Group, a Saudi conglomerate.
In 2005, Abraaj’s Saudi investors acquired a stake in Riyadh-based low cost carrier National Air Services. In 2008, they sold the stake generate an internal rate of return of 52 percent, according to the firm.

“The returns private equity in MENA has achieved in the past will be dwarfed by what the industry can achieve in the coming year,” Naqvi said at PEI’s annual Middle East Forum held in Dubai in March. The firm’s third buyout fund is nearing a $4 billion final close, eight times larger than its predecessor, which raised $500 million in 2005.

Founded in 2002, Abraaj has raised approximately $7 billion since its inception. The firm has interests in more than 25 companies in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region including pharmaceutical wholesaler and retailer Tadawi, low-cost carrier Air Arabia and hospital operator Acibadem. 

Last month, global private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts appointed Ford Fraker, the former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as a senior adviser to the firm in the Middle East. Fraker will expand KKR’s networks and relationships in the region, where it began operations last year.