Abraaj builds team ahead of fund close

The Dubai-based firm has made two senior level appointments and expects to make more this year as it continues raising its $4bn Fund III.

Abraaj Capital, the largest private equity firm in the Middle East and North Africa, has appointed Narayanan Rajagopalan and Ahmed Badreldin as executive directors. The firm said the hires are part of its growth strategy for 2009.

Rajagopalan has been at Abraaj since 2005. Following his promotion, he will look after the execution of Abraaj Capital partner companies' value-creation plans, with a primary focus on financial management and control.

Badreldin joins from Barclays Capital, where he was a senior director in the bank's leveraged finance division. He joins Abraaj's investment team with deal execution responsibilities.

Abraaj co-founder and chief executive Arif Naqvi said in a statement the appointments reflected the firm's growth strategy for 2009, which was still “on track” despite “challenging economic conditions globally”.

Naqvi said the growth strategy would lead to “the identification of additional leadership resources and further senior appointments in the course of this year”.

Abraaj now employs more than 165 people – up from the 130 staff it had this time this year.

News of the firm's continuing expansion contrasts sharply with that of other firms in the region. Earlier this week, Dubai-government backed Istithmar World said it would be cutting 13 jobs – equivalent to 10% of its workforce – in the face of current external market forces. Shuaa Capital has also announced job cuts.

Commenting on the firm's continued growth at a time when competitors are trimming staff, a spokesperson for the firm said: “Are we going to carry on growing at the same pace as last year? I don't know.

“The world is in trouble, but this region is still growing and we're growing with it.”

Abraaj Capital has more than $7.5 billion in assets under management and is currently fundraising for its third buyout fund, which has a target of $4 billion. It held a first close on $3 billion late last year, which the commitments coming entirely from re-ups from existing limited partners.