Philips buys majority stake in Saudi lighting firm

Firm buys stake in General Lighting Company from consortium including Carlyle Group

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Philips has bought a majority stake in Saudi Arabia’s General Lighting Company (GLC) from a consortium including Carlyle Group, in the U.S. private equity firm’s first exit from an investment in the country.

The $235 million sale is part of a growing trend in recent months of private equity investors in the Gulf region buying and selling assets after a period where such transactions were difficult due to poor market conditions.

Carlyle, which bought into GLC for an undisclosed amount in 2010 through its Carlyle MENA Fund, on Monday said it was offloading its 30 percent holding. Two other shareholders - Alliance Holding and Hejailan Group - are selling undisclosed amounts to give the Dutch group a 51 percent stake.

Alliance is a holding company managed by the founder and chairman of GLC, Abdullah Al-Hobayb, which will retain a 49 percent stake in the lighting group.

The purchase will strengthen Philips' footprint in the region, the healthcare, lighting and consumer appliances company said.

Private sales have started to pick up after a long drought.

In December, a unit of Dubai World sold its 50 percent stake in Miami Beach's landmark Fontainebleau hotel back to south Florida developer Turnberry, while global watchmaker Swatch took control of Dubai’s Rivoli retail chain through the purchase of an 18 percent stake from Dubai International Capital in November.

The investment banking arm of Gulf International Bank and Gibson Dunn advised the selling consortium, while Moelis and Norton Rose Fulbright acted for Philips, Carlyle said.

The deal is due to close this year, subject to regulatory approvals.

The sale ends bankers' hopes that GLC could be listed on the Saudi stock exchange. Carlyle had hired GIB Capital and law firm Latham & Watkins to help arrange an initial public offering, sources said last year.

While using a stock market listing to exit a private equity investment is pretty common in the West, such actions have been sporadic in the Gulf since the global financial crisis sent markets plummeting and damaged investor confidence.

However, a recovery in local investor sentiment - the value of Dubai’s bourse more than doubled in 2013 - has led to hopes that such deals could happen on regional bourses soon.

Construction Products Holding, a building materials firm in which Standard Chartered’s private equity arm owns a minority stake, could float 30 percent in Saudi Arabia this year, its chief executive told Reuters in January.

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