Tags: ML | Abu | Dhabi | Italy | Investment

Abu Dhabi Fund Buys 5 Percent of Italy's UniCredit

Thursday, 24 Jun 2010 09:07 AM

 

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The fast-growing Abu Dhabi state investment fund with the biggest stake in the maker of Mercedes-Benz said Thursday it has snapped up nearly 5 percent of UniCredit, Italy's largest bank.

Although Aabar Investments didn't say how much it paid, the deal is worth about 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion), based on the number of UniCredit shares outstanding at the closing price on June 16, the transaction date listed by Italy's market regulator.

Aabar said its Aabar Luxembourg subsidiary acquired the 4.99 percent stake in a brief regulatory filing to the Abu Dhabi stock exchange Thursday. It didn't provide details, and officials couldn't immediately be reached for further comment.

UniCredit declined to comment.

The buy-in makes the Gulf fund UniCredit's No. 2 shareholder and its largest foreign investor, according to the Italian stock market watchdog Consob. The Central Bank of Libya and New York-based investment management firm Blackrock Inc. are also big overseas shareholders.

Milanese investment bank Mediobanca SpA is UniCredit's largest investor.

Aabar is majority owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, the capital and largest of seven sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates, and holder of nearly all the OPEC member's oil reserves.

The fund has quickly emerged as of the more prominent investment vehicles Abu Dhabi uses to manage its oil wealth.

Aabar is majority owned by the sheikdom's government through another of its sovereign wealth funds, the International Petroleum Investment Co., but sells a minority stake to individual investors on the open market.

Earlier this week, it said it may take itself private, a move that could allow it to disclose less financial information than it does now.

Aabar last year paid nearly 2 billion euros — then worth about $2.72 billion — for a 9.1 percent stake in Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler, making it the German carmaker's biggest shareholder.

It also controls nearly a third of Richard Branson's commercial space travel startup Virgin Galactic, and an equally large stake in Formula 1 team Brawn GP. It owns roughly 4 percent of San Carlos, California-based electric car producer Tesla Motors.

UniCredit operates more than 9,800 branches in 22 countries, primarily in Europe.

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