Grand Court Justice Robin McMillan granted a two-month extension on Monday of the provisional liquidation of the Cayman-registered Abraaj Holdings, giving the troubled company more time to avoid being wound up at the behest of a major creditor.
Abraaj Holdings is a major part of the Abraaj Group, which was once the largest private equity firm in the Middle East. However, the firm allegedly owes creditors some US$1 billion and has been accused of misusing hundreds of millions of dollars, including funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.
In May, Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security filed a petition to wind up Abraaj Holdings and liquidate its assets after Abraaj allegedly defaulted on a US$100 million loan. Abraaj Holdings also filed an application, this one to have provisional liquidators appointed over it, which the firm said would allow it to restructure its debt, protect the rights of all stakeholders, and continue its day-to-day operations with minimum impact.
The Grand Court granted Abraaj Holdings’ application for provisional liquidators. However, it was said at a Grand Court hearing in July that Abraaj’s attempts to sell assets and restructure have not been as successful as hoped, which led to a renewed effort to liquidate and wind up Abraaj.
“Since March, attempts have been made to sell various assets from the Abraaj Group and to restructure. On the 18th of June, when orders were made [to appoint provisional liquidators of Abraaj], they were made on the basis that the company intends to make a compromise with creditors,” said Charles Falconer QC, an attorney for one of Abraaj’s creditors, at the July hearing. “Now, their position is that ‘we don’t know whether it’s going to be possible for a compromise to be made.’”
At the end of the July hearing, Justice McMillan adjourned the winding-up petition to Monday, Sept. 3, and ordered the provisional liquidators to submit a report on the efforts to sell Abraaj’s assets and about the likelihood of reaching a compromise or arrangement between Abraaj and its creditors.
Since then, provisional liquidators have made progress in selling some of Abraaj’s assets, including its asset-management platform, according to statements made in court on Monday. The asset-management platform would reportedly give its buyer access to more than a dozen developing countries across the world where Abraaj has offices.
Counsel for the liquidators said on Monday that Abraaj has dozens of bids for the platform, and hopes to accept one or more bids by Sept. 14. Justice McMillan ordered another progress report to be submitted to him two weeks before the next hearing.
The Abraaj liquidation has been a lucrative case for Cayman’s financial services providers, yielding companies such as Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers millions of dollars in fees, according to statements made at the July hearing.