Bahrain Fund Won’t Increase Gulf Air Investment

April 29, 2013

Bookmark and Share

Bahrain sovereign fund Mumtalakat said on Monday that it has no plans to sell stakes in domestic companies and could even increase its investments – but not in Gulf Air.

One of the smaller sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf region with USD$7.1 billion of assets under management at the end of September, the fund holds stakes in 40 firms in the state's non-oil sector, including Bahrain Telecommunications and Aluminium Bahrain (Alba).

Last year, chief executive Mahmood al-Kooheji said Mumtalakat could divest stakes in these firms to raise cash to invest in Bahrain's economy, such as through public share sales - Alba was listed in 2010, for example.

On Monday, however, Kooheji said it was not ruling out such moves later but it didn't have any current sale plans.

"In fact, I'm keen on putting more investment in them and improving them as I think they have a lot of potential," he said. Still, while the fund was happy to put equity into firms it wouldn't raise debt on their behalf, he said, contrary to how other state-linked entities have done in the Gulf.

One exception would be Gulf Air, the embattled Bahrain-based carrier, which wouldn't receive any funds from Mumtalakat as the government had allocated 100 million dinars (USD$265.3 million) from the state budget to go to the airline in 2013, with a further 75 million dinars in 2014, Kooheji said.

Gulf Air has been a major drag on Mumtalakat in recent years and was the main reason behind it posting a 270.6 million dinar loss in 2011.

The airline has struggled against the competition of Middle East carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, as well as the impact on Bahrain from the Arab Spring-inspired protests which erupted in the kingdom in 2011 and continue on an-almost daily basis.

Kooheji said Gulf Air planned to pursue codeshare agreements with other airlines outside the region to help it compete and was still searching for a chief executive for the airline after Samer Majali resigned in November.