Dubai ruler's firm said to have bigger debt woes

AP News
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Posted: Apr 19, 2011 8:56 AM
Dubai ruler's firm said to have bigger debt woes

Dubai Group, part of an investment company controlled by the emirate's ruler, is reportedly seeking to renegotiate the terms on $10 billion in debt _ $4 billion more than previously divulged.

The disclosure highlights the serious financial challenges and problems with transparency still facing the indebted city-state despite its success in retooling the terms on $25 billion of state-linked debt.

Dubai Group has not publicly commented on the higher debt tally, which has been reported elsewhere, including by the Emirati government-owned daily The National on Tuesday.

An official familiar with the negotiations confirmed the $10 billion figure to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

The total amount of debt involved includes $6 billion of bank loans, which the company has previously acknowledged, plus $4 billion owed to investors elsewhere, the official said.

Representatives for Dubai Group's parent company Dubai Holding and the Dubai government media office declined to comment.

Dubai Group first acknowledged the need to open up debt talks with lenders last year. In late January, it said it had begun negotiating with two sets of lenders separately to try to hammer out the $6 billion restructuring more efficiently.

One negotiating committee involving a division of France's Natixis SA and Dubai-based Mashreqbank covers secured creditors, which means their loans are backed by collateral.

The other is made up of partially secured and unsecured creditors. It includes the U.K.'s Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and five regional lenders.

Dubai Group is part of a conglomerate known as Dubai Holding, which is personally controlled by the city-state's hereditary ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It owns property in the U.S. and has sizable stakes in several financial companies, including regional bank EFG-Hermes and Europe's Marfin Popular Bank.

Its most pressing debt concern is a $1.5 billion loan coming due in August.

Dubai and its many government-controlled companies are shouldering well over $100 billion in debt, though the total size of the liabilities has never been disclosed.

The emirate in March signed a final agreement with creditors to repay $25 billion worth of loans tied to state conglomerate Dubai World on revised terms over the next eight years. Acute financial problems at the company in late 2009 sent tremors through global markets.