Saudi Arabia's PIF considers buying Dubai design firm Depa, sources say

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DUBAI, June 30 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) is considering buying Dubai-listed interior design and speciality contractor Depa Plc (DEPA.DI) to fit-out hotels under construction in the kingdom, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Should a deal be reached, an offer would be made to Depa's biggest shareholders and the firm would be taken private, said one of the sources, declining to be identified as the matter is not public.

PIF, which holds $430 billion of assets under management, declined to comment when contacted by Reuters on Tuesday.

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Depa, listed on Nasdaq Dubai, said in a statement to the bourse it was company policy not to comment on market rumours or media speculation.

Depa would continue to make required disclosures to ensure that the market was kept informed on a timely basis as appropriate, it said.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is developing its tourism industry as part of an economic diversification push by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler.

Depa's past projects in Dubai include the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, and Dubai's Atlantis resort.

If Depa is taken private, it would be the third delisting from Dubai's market this year, after Dubai parks operator DXB Entertainments delisted from the Dubai Financial Market and Dubai ports operator DP World left Nasdaq Dubai.

Depa has a free float of almost 40% and market capitalisation of about $36 million, according to Refinitiv data. Its shares are down almost 19% this year.

Depa reported a loss attributable to shareholders of 484.8 million dirhams ($132 million) in 2020, after losing 409.1 million dirhams the previous year. It blamed the 2020 loss on the insolvency of a major client and restructuring of its Asia unit.

Depa has said it planned divestments, including German interior firm Vedder, as part of a plan that has reduced its fixed cost base by more than 160 million dirhams.

Vedder specialises in luxury fit-outs of yachts and aircraft, which could interest PIF, two of the sources said.

Vedder did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi media have reported that PIF, which aims to increase its international portfolio while it also invests at home, plans to build a new airport in the capital, Riyadh.

The kingdom is forecast to see a 67% increase in room supply over the next three years, with a pipeline of 73,057 hotel rooms, industry data provider STR, Inc said in March.

($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)

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Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing by Edmund Blair, Robert Birsel

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