DUBAI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments, the top shareholder in Italian bank UniCredit (CRDI.MI), has lost its chief financial officer and another top executive, sources familiar with the matter said.
The move signals the state-owned firm, which recently divested its stake in German carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE), may be scaling back an investment spree which has seen it take stakes in high-profile global companies since its inception in 2005.
Brandt Mowry, an executive with a dual role as both chief financial officer and chief investment officer, left Aabar in October, three sources said, speaking anonymously because the matter has not been made public.
General Counsel Alex Iapichino also left the company in September, one of the sources said. Another executive from the legal department left as well, the sources said, without providing her name.
“It’s hard to predict the direction in which the firm is going currently. Most of us will be shooting in the breeze in assuming the future of Aabar, but the fact is that several people have left,” one source familiar with the firm said.
Aabar is among state-owned sovereign entities in the wealthy emirate which include names such as Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), considered one of the world’s largest, and Mubadala Development, a shareholder in private equity firm Carlyle (CG.O) and General Electric (GE.N).
Aabar, which invested $1 billion in the initial public offering of commodities giant Glencore (GLEN.L) last year, did not respond to calls and an email seeking comment. Its parent, International Petroleum Investment Co (IPIC), also did not respond to requests for comment.
The sources were not aware if any replacements were planned for the executives who had left. A property unit of Aabar had been shedding expatriate jobs as its stepped up a policy of hiring United Arab Emirates (UAE) nationals, sources told Reuters in March.
Abu Dhabi, which sits on most of UAE’s oil reserves, is conducting a strategic review of all government entities to centralize fundraising and improve accountability.
Abu Dhabi government-owned IPIC is the majority shareholder in Aabar.
Mowry, who joined the firm in 2010 from a subsidiary of Virgin Group, was the go-to person for bankers and investment professionals pitching deals and investment ideas to the company, a second source said. Aabar owns about 38 percent of Virgin Galactic.
Chief Executive Officer Mohamed al-Husseiny remains in his role along with Chairman Khadem Abdulla al-Qubaisi, who is also the chief executive of IPIC.
Other executives, including the business development manager and a portfolio manager, are still with the firm, the sources said.
Aabar, which delisted from the Abu Dhabi bourse in 2010, divested its remaining 3.07 percent stake in Daimler last month.
Aside from participating in the rights issue sale of UniCredit in the early part of the year, the investment firm has kept a low profile in 2012, mirroring Abu Dhabi’s cautious investment strategy over the past year.
Aabar raised its stake in major Dubai construction firm Arabtec ARTC.DU to 20.8 percent early this year, after a 2010 attempt to buy majority control ended without a deal.
“We haven’t seen them (Aabar) being very active recently but that said, there has been a general slowdown in Abu Dhabi in the last year or so with regard to their investments,” a senior banking source said.
In 2011, Aabar bought local bank Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s (ADCB.AD) (ADCB) 25-percent stake in Malaysian group RHB Capital (RHBC.KL). Parent IPIC took a loan worth an equivalent amount from ADCB to finance the acquisition.
In February this year, sources told Reuters that Aabar was exploring a sale of the RHB stake and had engaged in early talks with Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (Editing by Mark Potter)