* Sovereign fund OIF in advanced talks for ONIC stake - sources
* Dubai Group has embarked on asset sales partly to cut debt
* Investment firm has 42-pct ownership in ONIC (Adds details, background)
By Dinesh Nair
DUBAI, Jan 23 (Reuters) - An Omani sovereign wealth fund is in advanced talks to buy a near 42-percent stake in Oman National Investment Corp Holding (ONIC) from a unit of Dubai’s ruler’s personal investment firm, two sources aware of the matter said.
Oman Investment Fund, which has a regional and global investment portfolio, is in discussions to buy the stake, currently worth about $59 million, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter has not been made public.
“The talks are at an advanced stage and the involvement of a local fund makes it easier for Dubai Group to see the deal through,” one of the sources said, declining to be identified.
Dubai Group and OIF both declined to comment. No details on the valuation for the stake was available.
ONIC is a holding company active in the insurance business and offers other services like asset management and leasing. Japan’s Oryx Corp has a 14.9 percent stake, making it the second-largest shareholder after Dubai Group, according to Reuters data.
Dubai Group - part of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s Dubai Holding conglomerate and which is restructuring $10 billion of debt - put the stake up for sale as part of a wider asset divestment plan aimed at raising money for debt repayment, sources told Reuters in December.
ONIC said last month that a major shareholder was in talks to sell its stake in the company to an undisclosed buyer, but provided no further details.
Dubai Group was hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 due to a high use of leverage in its investments and a sharp decline in asset values.
It has been selling assets to reduce the debt burden.
In September, the firm sold its Turkish insurance arm to a company owned by former AIG chief executive Maurice Greenberg and a unit of Dubai lender Mashreq Bank.
It also cut half its staff of about 30 people as part of cost-cutting measures, including its chief investment officer, sources said in November.
Dubai Group also owns a 14.7 percent stake in Oman’s top lender, Bank Muscat, and its other financial assets include stakes in Egypt’s EFG Hermes and Cyprus Popular Bank, formerly Marfin. (Editing by Amran Abocar)