Cayman court freezes $9.2 bln of Saad assets

By Reuters Staff
July 31, 2009

By Tom Freke and Souhail Karam

LONDON/RIYADH, July 31 (Reuters) – A Cayman Islands court has frozen $9.2 billion of assets belonging to Saad Group, the Saudi Arabian investment firm at the centre of a financial storm, including some of its equity stakes outside the Gulf.

In a related development, bank creditors of one of the main Saad Group companies, Saad Investments Company Limited (SICL), filed a petition to the same court seeking immediate repayment by the company of a more than $2.8 billion loan and accrued interest.

The assets freeze ruling by the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands followed a complaint filed by Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers Company (AHAB), which is locked in a legal tussle in the United States with Maan al-Sanea, the billionaire owner of Saad Group.

The two heavily indebted family-owned conglomerates are both in restructuring talks with their creditors, negotiations complicated by court cases filed by different parties.

The Saad Group said the Cayman Islands court assets freeze ruling was part of a “baseless” campaign against it by AHAB.

AHAB was not immediately available to comment.

The July 24 assets freeze ruling named 43 defendants including Cayman-registered SICL, owner of many of Saad’s equity stakes outside the Gulf.

“An injunction is granted against the … defendants prohibiting disposal of assets worldwide, for the appointment of receivers, and the ancillary and collateral relief set out in the form of the draft order,” the ruling said.

LENDERS PETITION COURT FOR REPAYMENT
In a separate filing to the Cayman Islands Grand Court on July 30, creditors of SICL presented a Winding Up Petition, citing several instances of default by the company and saying it was “insolvent and unable to pay its debts”.

The petition, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said Grand Cayman-based SICL owed total debts consisting of more than $2.8 billion of principal and more than $31 million in unpaid accrued interest. It said lenders were demanding “immediate payment” of the loans and interest.

“In the circumstances, it is just and equitable that the company should be wound up,” said the petition brought by three banks, Barclays Bank PLC, Calyon, and The Royal Bank of Scotland.

Saad Group said in a statement late on Thursday the claims made by AHAB in its application to the Cayman court had no foundation, and were made before a full investigation had taken place and without full information.

“AHAB’s application for the Cayman orders represents a continuation of the baseless, yet public, campaign it has chosen to wage,” Saad Group said.

“Saad itself is working hard with its creditors to determine a fair resolution across the board of all current difficulties,” the statement said.

The court order — which can be enforced only in the Cayman Islands, England and Wales, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — was made at a hearing without notice to the defendants, with each given the right to respond.

The companies affected include the group’s airline, Saad Air, as well as Singularis Holdings, which bought a 3 percent stake in HSBC in 2007.

Saad’s stake now totals about 2 percent, analysts at Cazenove said in June, with a current value of about 2 billion pounds ($3.31 billion).

Saad has also bought stakes in Petra Diamonds, Imagination Tech, Accsys Technologies, Reneuron Group and Eatonfield Group.

Lenders to the Saad Group are owed as much as $15 billion in total.

Bahrain’s central bank said on Thursday it has seized two banks belonging to AHAB and Saad Group, in the latest move to manage the fallout from their financial troubles.

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