Conglomerate Dubai World has hired New York-based investment and advisory firm Blackstone Group LP to take a fresh look at its debt and how to make repayments to creditors, sources aware of the matter told Reuters.
“This is only for advisory purposes and to streamline the available options for the debt maturing in 2018,” a Dubai government source said, speaking on condition of anonymity under briefing rules.
He added that no further restructuring of Dubai World’s debt was proposed. “No restructuring is on the table.”
In New York, a Blackstone spokesman confirmed that Dubai World had hired it on a “debt optimisation mandate”. He did not elaborate.
The sources were speaking after state-owned Dubai World ended a two-day annual meeting with its creditors this week. The meeting was behind closed doors and no statement was issued upon its conclusion.
Dubai World ran into trouble during the emirate’s 2009 property market collapse and had to restructure $25 billion of debt, of which about $14.4 billion was owed to around 90 local and foreign banks, and the remainder to the Dubai government.
The first big debt maturity under the restructuring plan will come in May 2015, a $4.4 billion loan maturity, and is being seen as an important test of the plan. Another big maturity of about $10 billion is due in 2018.
Dubai World’s ability to pay these debts will depend on its sales of assets to raise funds, and some bankers have expressed concern that disposals may not be proceeding fast enough.
However Mohammed al-Shaibani, chief executive of sovereign wealth fund Investment Corp of Dubai and a key figure in negotiating the emirate’s debt restructurings in recent years, told Reuters just before the creditor meeting that Dubai World had the means to make the May 2015 repayment on time and expects to pay off more of its debt ahead of schedule.
Reuters reported in March that Dubai World had repaid $284.5 million of its debts ahead of schedule.
“We are sitting with lenders to discuss options. We even have some plans for the debt maturing in 2018 that we will discuss with them in due course,” Shaibani said.
He did not elaborate on proposed plans for the 2018 debt but some bankers have speculated Dubai World could offer to buy back some of it before maturity at a discount, satisfying foreign banks which wanted to remove it from their books.