Saudi Arabia is buying stakes in three flagship DP World developments in the United Arab Emirates for $2.4 billion, in the latest sign that increasing competition between the two largest Gulf economies isn’t impacting deal flow.
Hassana Investment Co. will take a 10.2% stake in assets including the Jebel Ali Port, which helped transform Dubai into a global trading hub. It will also take holdings in Jebel Ali Free Zone and the National Industries Park, according to a statement on Wednesday.
The deal is part of DP World’s quest to pare down debt and comes six months after Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec said it would invest $5 billion in the Middle East’s biggest port and two industrial zones.
The investment by Hassana, the investment manager for Saudi Arabia’s General Organization for Social Insurance, which owns one of the world’s largest pension funds, implies a total enterprise value of about $23 billion for the three assets, which generated pro-forma revenue of $1.9 billion last year.
DP World has been exploring the sale of equity stakes in certain assets as the emirate works to cut the debt pile that helped to finance the city’s growth. Dubai took DP World private in early 2020 to help the shipping firm better manage its borrowings.
The transaction “will support our target of achieving a strong investment-grade rating for the DP World Group,” said Chief Executive Officer Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem.
The investment comes amid rising competition between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. The region’s biggest economy is looking to attract more foreign investment and become a regional business and logistics hub as it tries to diversify its oil dependent economy. The ambitions often pit the kingdom against Dubai, which has for years been the commercial capital of the region.
Saudi Arabia is targeting annual port capacity of over 40 million TEUs as part of its plans to become a global trade hub. DP World already operates one port in Jeddah.
“This partnership highlights our focus and strategy to invest in critical infrastructure assets in the region,” said Hassana CEO Saad bin Abdulmohsen Al-Fadly. Favorable demographics and macro-economic drivers will continue to support growth momentum regionally, he said, “while trade between the emerging economies of Asia and Africa is also expected to thrive.”
Hassana, which manages over $250 billion of assets, was boosted last year by a merger of General Organization for Social Insurance and Saudi Arabia’s Public Pension Agency, in a move intended to reduce costs and help increase investment returns.
The fund manager signed a memorandum of understanding with BlackRock Inc. last month to promote and develop its infrastructure investment strategy.