By Tomoko Yamazaki
July 7 (Bloomberg) — Dubai International Capital LLC, the asset management firm with more than $12 billion, said any investments made in 2008 will be in Asia, where economies may expand faster than the global average this year.
The firm has earmarked $5 billion over the next two-to-three years for Asia, especially China and India, Sameer al-Ansari, the company’s chief executive officer, said in an interview in Japan’s Fukuoka prefecture. Cash is the best option for now as private equity deals have come to a halt in Europe and in the U.S., he said.
Dubai International has bought stakes in ICICI Bank Ltd., HSBC Holdings Plc and Sony Corp. with money from investors, including Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, as the second-biggest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates seeks to diversify its sources of income away from real estate and oil.
“The focus has shifted to emerging markets and Asia where we see the better opportunities,” said al-Ansari, who was attending the Asia Innovation Initiative conference in Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu. “We strongly believe that cash is king at the moment and that there will be phenomenal investment opportunities.”
Infrastructure, construction and services are the industries that the fund is focused on, according to al-Ansari, as well as on companies that can benefit from growth in Dubai and neighboring countries.
Dubai International aims to invest about $1 billion each in India and China, al-Ansari said. The fund is currently in “advanced talks” with manufacturers in the U.A.E. and India, he said, declining to be more specific.
“Asia is very important for our investment strategy, and a year ago we started saying we want to invest more in Asia,” al- Ansari said. “We’re looking to build long-term relationships that help us for diversification and will benefit Dubai and the region.”
Economies in Asia will expand 6.2 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. That’s more than the 4.1 percent global average the IMF projects.
In April, Dubai International said it plans to set up a $1 billion fund with Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group to focus on China. China Dubai Capital fund will invest in Chinese companies in the infrastructure, resources and health- care industries, according to Dubai International and First Eastern.
“We want to be investing heavily in China,” al-Ansari said. “It’s impossible to say one has a global investment strategy and not have serious money in China.”
Dubai International last July said it bought a 2.87 percent stake in ICICI Bank, India’s biggest lender by market value, worth about $730 million.
It bought shares in Sony, the world’s second-largest maker of consumer electronics, in 2007, its first investment in a Japanese company. The fund has no plans to make additional investments in Japan, al-Ansari said, citing Japanese companies’ reluctance to sell to foreigners.
“If you ask me today, are you close to making any investment in a Japanese public company, the answer would be no,” he said. Still, “Japan is also very much on the radar screen.”