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Dubai World unit 'eyes sale of UK asset'

Dubai, January 15, 2012

Economic Zones World (EZW), a unit of Dubai World, is considering the sale of its UK-based warehouse property developer Gazeley, as it looks to repay some of its debt of over $2 billion this year, banking sources said.

Gazeley is one of the four businesses held by EZW, which operates technology, logistics and industrial parks as well as Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA) under the Dubai World Group umbrella.

A potential sale of Gazeley will help EZW repay a portion of debt maturing at Jafza, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jafza is aiming to refinance a $2.04-billion Islamic bond maturing in November this year. The firm has hired investment bank Rothschild for that process, two of the sources said.

Dubai World bought Gazeley from Wal-Mart Stores in 2008 for an estimated 300 million to 400 million pounds ($459-611 million) but a likely sale could only happen at a discount due to the current economic climate and lack of buyers, two sources said.

"They (EZW) have earmarked it for sale. Banks are chasing that mandate but don't think they have officially named anyone," one of the sources said.

"Gazeley is a mediocre asset. They will be lucky to generate the purchase price on it given the current market conditions," he added.

Gazeley has so far developed around 6.4 million square metres of warehousing, according to the company's website. EZW declined to comment on the matter.

Its chairman Hisham Abdullah Al-Shirawi said last month that he does not rule out asset sales to help raise funds to pay off Jafza's debt but said the company does not need to seek government support.

Ratings agency Moody's said last month that Dubai, which has restructured some $41 billion in debt related to Dubai World, faces refinancing risks related to three state-linked entities next year, including Jafza.  

Rival ratings firm Standard & Poor's has named the Jafza bond maturity as among Dubai state-linked obligations in 2012 with the greatest chance of encountering repayment issues.

Dubai stunned global markets in November 2009 when it sought a standstill on $26 billion in debts related to Dubai World. It struck a deal with banks last year, promising full repayment on the principal in five to eight years.

Discussions in government circles focus on $3.8 billion in bonds due in 2012 from a trio of state-linked firms, including Jafza. The other two firms are Dubai Holding Commercial Operations Group (DHCOG), part of the ruler's private holding company and DIFC Investments (DIFCI).

However, Dubai has said it has no plans to restructure debt held by state-linked companies, although it is ready to support them through "various" refinancing options.

The emirate is slowly recovering from the depths of its debt crisis, helped by an economic revival in trade and tourism and its safe-haven status amid the Arab Spring civil uprisings. - Reuters




Tags: Dubai World | Jafza | debt | Gazeley | Economic Zones |

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