Markaz looks to buy Saudi financial firm


KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwaiti investment firm Markaz said on Wednesday it wanted to acquire a financial services firm and set up a real estate company in Saudi Arabia to tap investment opportunities in the world's top oil exporter. "We signed memorandum of understanding for both opportunities," General Manager Manaf Alhajeri told the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit. He said that Markaz wanted to buy a majority stake in an unlisted financial services firm in Saudi Arabia with a capital of 50 million riyals ($13.33 million). "It's going to begin with investment banking ... There is a tremendous deal flow of opportunities across sectors.

We are going to expand our money management expertise," Alhajeri said. The company also wants to set up with Kuwaiti and Saudi partners a real estate company with a capital of 500 million riyals of which Markaz would provide 50-75 million riyals. "There is an interesting gap between supply and demand with residential property," he added. Markaz, which offers investment bank and financial services such as asset management, corporate finance or advisory on mergers, was also looking at investing in the energy and real estate sectors in Algeria, he said. It is also in talks with the Syrian government to sign a memorandum of understanding to develop a hotel real estate project in the northern city of Aleppo.

Alhajeri added he expected Gulf sovereign wealth funds, some of which are Markaz clients, to invest more money at home rather than abroad. The credit crunch and global financial crisis have left them nursing substantial losses on overseas investments. "We will see more of the surplus deployed in the region rather than other parts of the world," he said. The firm has sovereign funds as clients. (Reporting by Ulf Laessing and Will Rasmussen;

Editing by Alexander Smith and Hans Peters) © Thomson Reuters 2008.

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