03.28.2012
By Terry Flanagan

PineBridge In MENA Upgrade

PineBridge Investments, the $67.3 billion multi-asset class money manager that broke away from AIG (America International Group) in 2010, recently appointed Talal Al Zain to head up its Middle East and North Africa (MENA) division.

Al Zain is formerly the chief executive of the Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company, the country’s official sovereign wealth fund, also known as Mumtalakat. Al Zain will continue to lead PineBridge’s endeavors from Manama, Bahrain. While he did not tell Markets Media if the firm would be vying for mandates from sovereign wealth funds, he acknowledged the group’s growing presence in the institutional investor space.

“Having led Mumtalakat for several years, I truly understand the fiduciary responsibilities and challenges that many sovereign wealth funds face in today’s global economy,” he said, noting the importance of sovereign wealth funds in the MENA region.

Though Al Zain’s new post is an official mark of the firm’s full-service formal expansion into MENA, PineBridge currently holds several private equity investments in Istanbul, Turkey, and also holds a distribution office in Dubai, UAE. PineBridge’s MENA region will primarily focus on “strengthening the firm’s product offering, especially private equity deal flow”, according to Al Zain, who also told Markets Media that developing operations in Turkey will be of utmost importance to the firm.

“There are compelling economic and demographic factors that continue to drive growth and investment in the country [Turkey],” he noted.

Al Zain will sit on PineBridge’s executive committee, and additionally be responsible for both co-heading the PineBridge’s alternative investments, which largely includes hedge funds and private equity, alongside the firm’s global head of investments, Hans Danielsson.

For board member Mervyn Davies, the firm’s non-executive chairman, Al Zain’s addition to the firm represents another “step forward for PineBridge in the execution of the Board’s strategic vision, and positioning of the firm to capitalize on investment management opportunities in high growth markets”. Indeed, the firm has made a number of other significant new hires in recent months.

Chief executive David Jiang, who joined PineBridge last February, said that Al Zain brings “a solid investment track record, deep knowledge, global capability and best practices” to PineBridge. He added that Al Zain’s strengths lie with his knowledge of the MENA emerging and frontier markets.

The frontier markets are largely considered those not of the typical BRIC emerging markets and often left behind by many investors. Yet, the investment universe has expanded greatly, with stock exchange launches in MENA countries such as Iraq and Lebanon, which all sustained their exchanges last year when the region lost 5% due to the political chaos that stemmed from “the Arab Spring”, according to FTSE Global Markets.

At Mumtalakat, Al Zain raised $750 million in the international capital markets through a successful bond offering in 2010, which further optimized the firm’s sustainable debt levels on a long-term investment horizon, and listed 10% of Aluminum Bahrain’s (Alba) equity on the Bahrain and London Stock Exchanges.

Prior to Mumtalakat, Al Zain spent 18 years at alternative manager Investcorp, as co-head of placement, relationship management and investment banking for the company’s Middle East division.

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