March 11, 2008 / 1:33 PM / 11 years ago

UAE's Abu Dhabi Group pays $42 mln for Georgian bank

ABU DHABI, March 11 (Reuters) - The Abu Dhabi Group, an investment company owned by a member of the ruling family of the Gulf emirate, said it paid $42 million for Georgia’s Standard Bank as it seeks to tap economic growth in the Caucasus state.

“We see good prospects for Standard Bank and our investment is long-term,” Bashir Tahir, The Abu Dhabi Group’s chief executive officer, told Reuters by telephone in the United Arab Emirates.

“There is also a lot of interest in Georgia from the United States and Europe, and some neighbouring countries such as Turkey,” Tahir said.

Standard Bank said on Sunday The Abu Dhabi Group bought the lender from private equity group Salford Capital, which was close to Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who died last month. It did not give a value for the purchase. [ID:nANT941291]

The Abu Dhabi Group is owned by Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak al-Nahayan, the UAE’s minister of higher education. Abu Dhabi is the largest member of the UAE federation, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, which is reaping a windfall from record oil prices.

The Abu Dhabi Group said in February it planned to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Georgia’s telecom, banking, tourism and real estate industries. [ID:nMCH128040]

The firm said in August it bought a 50 percent stake in Bertelsmann’s (BTGGg.F) Middle East mobile phone affiliate as part of its strategy of boosting its telecommunications operations. [ID:nL21820493]

In November, it spent $16 million on a telecoms investment in Georgia, its first in the country.

Georgian National, the country’s central bank, placed Standard Bank in temporary administration in November because of worries over liquidity.

Salford’s lawyers said the bank was being targeted because of apparent links to Patarkatsishvili, who was suspected by the Georgian government of trying to incite a coup in Georgia.

Patarkatsishvili, a billionaire opponent of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, died suddenly last month at his estate near London. Police initially treated the death as suspicious, but have found no evidence of foul play. (Writing by James Cordahi; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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