* Travelex, UAE Exchange merger signed on Thurs - chairman
* To merge two entities into one company
* Plan listing of merged co in Abu Dhabi by early-2017 (Adds detail, further quotes, context)
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Foreign currency exchange firm Travelex will be merged with money transfer company UAE Exchange and listed in Abu Dhabi by early on in 2017, new owner Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty said on Thursday.
The Indian-born billionaire along with Abu Dhabi private equity house Centurion Investments agreed last year to buy Travelex for about 800 million pounds ($1.2 billion) from private equity firm Apax Partners and founding chairman Lloyd Dorfman.
“We signed the deal today (Thursday). The acquisition is completed,” Shetty told Reuters by phone from London.
Travelex, the world’s largest foreign exchange specialist, was set up as a bureau de change in the 1970s and now trades in over 80 currencies and more than 50 countries.
BR Shetty, founder and chairman of UAE Exchange, which has over 6 million customers in 30 countries, said the two firms would greatly benefit from the tie-up, which would be complementary.
“UAE Exchange is into remittances and Travelex is forex, their targets are different. We see exponential growth going forward,” he said.
“We have plans to merge the two entities to expand, to grow the business,” he said, adding that a public share offer in Abu Dhabi was also part of the plan.
Details about the percentage of shares to be offered to the public are yet to be finalised, he said.
A local listing would be a major coup for the Abu Dhabi bourse, which has seen a number of local firms prefer London for share flotations in recent years to the emirate, where local rules have proved unattractive, such as being obliged to sell at least 55 percent of a company’s share capital.
Promised reforms to UAE laws which among other measures would reduce the free float requirement have yet to materialise but the exchange has been trying to get these firms back — the head of the Abu Dhabi bourse said last week that many had agreed to dual-list in the future.
Apax had been planning a London listing for Travelex until it agreed to sell to Shetty.
Last month, Shetty secured a loan of around $800 million for the Travelex acquisition, sources aware of the matter said.
Centurion Investments, which is part of Abu Dhabi-based KBBO Group, owns 60 per cent of UAE Exchange. ($1 = 0.6612 pounds) (Editing by David French and Greg Mahlich)