Buyout firm Ardian to open in Abu Dhabi to tap sovereign wealth

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Paris-based buyout firm Ardian SAS is opening an office in Abu Dhabi to tap opportunities across the region where cash-rich sovereign wealth funds are becoming increasingly influential investors.

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Ardian’s team in the United Arab Emirates’ capital, which will be led by François Aissa-Touazi, will build on existing partnerships with sovereign funds such as Mubadala Investment Co. and will help existing portfolio companies expand regionally.

It will also invest directly in companies across the Middle East, with two hydrogen-related deals in the pipeline.

“Abu Dhabi is very much advanced in planning some green hydrogen projects and we will certainly go with them in some partnership for some hydrogen development here in this region, president and founder Dominique Senequier said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Ardian, with $25 billion of assets and $8 billion of capital in the region, will start with 10 employees in Abu Dhabi and may look to hire more, she said.

In December, Ardian — which has been active in the UAE and the region for two decades — inked a $2.1 billion partnership with Mubadala Capital, the asset management arm of Mubadala Investment, that will involve the French firm investing in private equity assets managed by the Abu Dhabi firm and committing to its private equity funds.

Active acquirers

Sovereign wealth funds from the oil-rich Gulf region continued to be active acquirers last year even as global deal volumes fell and banks cut lending for acquisitions.

Buoyed with cash from last year’s commodity boom and spurred on by equally ambitious neighbors such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the UAE — home to about 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves — is investing billions of dollars to diversify its economy away from crude.

By contrast, rising interest rates and the end of an era of abundant liquidity put many private equity firms in a bind last year after over a decade of astronomical growth.

With debt markets largely shut, many struggled to find the financing needed to do big deals and amplify their returns. The performance of their portfolio companies also suffered.

Globally, Ardian has $140 billion of assets under management or advice, and invests across private equity, real estate, infrastructure and credit. Senequier led a management buyout of the business from French insurer AXA SA in 2013.

In 2021, Ardian started internal preparations for a possible initial public offering when the market for new listings was booming and European buyout firms were starting to go public.

Now, “conditions are very different, Senequier said. “I don’t think it’s the right timing for Ardian, the markets are not so good, they are volatile.

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