DUBAI Kuwait's Investment Dar TIDK.KW, the Islamic investor that bought half of British luxury carmaker Aston Martin, is considering buying into a listed U.S. telecom operator and could invest up to $800 million in the venture, a company executive said on Tuesday.
The investment firm is looking to diversify its portfolio into new sectors including energy, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications as it seeks to expand into Europe and the U.S., Adham Charanoglu, business development manager and valuation manager at the company, told the Reuters Islamic Finance Summit.
Investment Dar, which bought London's Grosvenor House Hotel last year, is mulling buying either a telecoms operator in Western Europe or the United States within a consortium, Charanoglu said, adding that Dar would look to have "influence" in the company.
"We are studying two telecom operator opportunities ... One listed company in the U.S., and one (not listed) in Western Europe," he said, declining to name the targets.
U.S. analysts said Investment Dar may be interested in Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) or Clearwire Corp CLWR.O, which have said they were looking at possible outside funding to help them build networks based on an emerging technology known as WiMax.
Both companies declined comment.
"Sprint is definitely the first name that pops into my mind," said Stanford Group analyst Michael Nelson, "Clearwire would be the other option."
Nelson said it could be a good time to invest in Sprint, the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider, as its shares have fallen more than 40 percent in the last year amid subscriber losses from technical and customer service problems.
If Sprint and Clearwire form a joint venture with their WiMax assets, as Nelson expects in the next few months, the venture may also attract investment, the analyst said, adding that he was not familiar with Investment Dar's plans.
Investment Dar would not look at an internal rate of return of less than 14 percent, Charanoglu said.
"It is a pure operational investment where you can see cashflow ... We want to have a telecom investment," he said.
The company spent about $700 million on acquisitions last year and would look to make individual investments this year in the range $200 million to $800 million.
"With a partner we could go beyond this," said Charanoglu.
(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York, Editing by Will Waterman)