Al Jaber close to debt standstill deal
Abu Dhabi, April 4, 2012
Abu Dhabi conglomerate Al Jaber Group is close to a standstill agreement on its $1-billion plus debt restructuring of debt, with more than 90 percent of lenders agreeing to the move, two sources said on Wednesday.
Al Jaber, a family-owned group with operations in construction, aviation and retail, set up a creditor committee last year to negotiate the restructuring. It has not given a figure for its debt pile, believed to be more than $1 billion.
A standstill on repaying the debt is seen as a vital step in the negotiating process, allowing Al Jaber to propose new terms for the facilities under discussion without the threat of legal action being launched against it by creditors.
It would also allow the company to start reopening lines of credit and pitch for new contracts.
"We are closer to a standstill; 90 percent of banks have agreed in principle," said a banking source requesting anonymity. "It's a complex situation - it has taken a while but there is progress."
An Al Jaber spokesman declined to comment.
Sources said in February that a standstill could be agreed by early March but that banks were against rolling over the debt at terms demanded by Al Jaber.
The conglomerate has embarked on a reshuffle of top management, including a new chief executive, as part of efforts to get it back on track.
Al Jaber is one of the most prominent private sector firms in Abu Dhabi, where the acknowledgment of financial difficulties has been minimal in contrast to neighbouring Dubai, under the spotlight for its debt woes since late 2009.
In addition, there are few precedents in restructuring debt at privately-held companies in the United Arab Emirates.
Al Jaber's banks' committee is chaired by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and includes Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank , HSBC, RBS and Union National Bank. - Reuters