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Bahrain sovereign wealth fund to focus on domestic investments for now

Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund said on Friday it would focus for now on its domestic investments, including Gulf Air, but would be on the lookout for global investments in sectors like tourism.

“Right now, my focus really is on the existing portfolio companies which is mostly in the Bahrain market,” Mumtalakat Chief Executive Talal al-Zain said in an interview at on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Dead Sea, Jordan.

“I’m just taking advantage of what’s happening and just investing within my portfolio company,” Zain told Reuters.

Sovereign wealth funds in the oil-exporting Gulf Arab region have scaled down investments in Western companies since oil prices tumbled from peaks of almost $150 a barrel last summer.

The Kuwait Investment Authority and Qatar Investment Authority, for example, have made key investments in domestic equities to help shore up ailing stock markets.

Zain said two blue chip Bahraini stocks, including Bahrain Telecommunications, were among Mumtalakat’s key local holdings. It also owns national carrier Gulf Air, which has been undergoing restructuring after making steep losses in 2007 that forced it to slash its workforce by about 25%.

“Today is the best time for us to invest in it. We’re re-fleeting the company, restructuring the company, we’re just ready for the uptick in the economy,” Zain said.

“We’re just benefiting from what’s happening, because if I look at my existing portfolio of companies, what I’m doing is I’m investing in them to grow their value further.”

As it strives to diversify its revenues, Mumtalakat would seek to target investments in commodities including food, financial services, telecoms and tourism in Asia, Europe and the United States, Zain added, without giving details.

“We are still looking at these areas, we believe that these areas can give us on long-term basis good returns, we are long term investors,” he said.

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