Embattled Abraaj in fresh talks to sell majority stake in investment arm.

10 May 2018 Consultancy-me.com

In the latest development in the ongoing Abraaj saga, which has most recently seen Deloitte added to the list of auditors brought in by both sides of the investor dispute, reports have emerged that the Middle East buyout firm is in discussions to shed a majority stake in its newly-separated investment unit to U.S. asset managers Colony NorthStar.

The news follows reports from last month that Abu Dhabi sovereign investment fund Mubadala – which, with $125 billion in assets post-merger is the 14th largest such fund in the world – had pulled out of talks on the purchase amid an ongoing investigation into Abraaj’s books by forensic accounting firm Ankura Consulting – brought in by four disgruntled investors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

Ankura was commissioned after the investors’ dissatisfaction with a previous report by KPMG which cleared the private equity firm of any impropriety over its alleged mishandling of funds allocated for healthcare projects in South Asia and Africa. The aggrieved parties contended that the expeditious KPMG audit, which was conducted in the space of a month, may have lacked the necessary rigour given the time-frame of its completion.

Abraaj has denied any fiscal wrong-doing concerning the disputed $1 billion healthcare fund – stating that the funds remain untouched and were simply unspent due to regulatory delays – and has in response to the Ankura appointment and KPMG report criticism hired Big Four rival Deloitte to carry out a second, separate examination, and more broadly a review of the beleaguered firm’s business, according to reports citing unnamed internal sources.Embattled Abraaj in fresh talks to sell majority stake in investment arm.To date, the fallout from the affair has seen founder and CEO Arif Naqvi step down from the running of the fund along with other senior management shake-ups, while new investments have been suspended with a reported $3 billion in capital returned to investors. Further Abraaj assets are also are set to be off-loaded, including a stake in Egyptian school operator CIRA, along with the latest news that talks with a potential buyer for its Middlesex University’s Dubai campus investment have reached an advanced stage.

In addition, the Dubai-based firm – which is the Middle East’s biggest private equity entity – has hired US investment bank Houlihan Lokey in an effort to settle the dispute with its investors – which, as reported by the New York Times, revolves around a ~$270 million portion of the fund. The team from Deloitte, which is said to include specialists in forensic services, will now work with Abraaj to review the governance and control mechanisms in respect to the healthcare fund.

“We remain focused on working collaboratively with our investors and continuing to execute on the re-organisation of our firm to pave the way for continued long-term growth and value creation,” Abraaj said in statement to Reuters, “while also preserving the Fund’s vital mission of delivering affordable, accessible and quality healthcare to undeserved markets.”

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Local consultancy Impact Research helps to assess relief efforts in Yemen

18 April 2019 Consultancy-me.com

Newly incorporated Yemeni consultancy Impact Research has been working with UN agencies and international NGOs to evaluate local crisis and recovery efforts.

Now into its fifth year, the worsening civil conflict in Yemen has taken the lives of over 60,000 citizens and brought wide-spread devastation to what was already the poorest county in the region, with millions suffering from its effects. According to UN reports, four fifths of the Yemeni population – some 24 million people – are in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, with more than half of those in acute need and threatened by famine.

A number of UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) including the UNDP, World Food Programme, Oxfam, and World Bank among others have been acting to bring relief through a variety of local humanitarian projects, such as the three-year joint UNDP-World Bank Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) which through a grant of $300 million seeks to assist recovery from the bottom up by restoring livelihood opportunities.

The reasoning behind the approach is that by increasing income-generation opportunities for the some 80 percent of the Yemeni population currently unemployed, individual households will be strengthened and then more capable of assisting and contributing to their communities – ultimately bringing the country closer to peace. To date, over half a million people have directly benefited from the YECRP project, through both short-term job creation and training initiatives.Impact Research helping to assess humanitarian relief efforts in YemenUnprecedented as a humanitarian disaster, the urgency and scale of the project (over 3 million people have also gained access to basic services such as water and health through YECRP) and other relief efforts by their nature requires somewhat of an as-you-go approach, with the need for constant assessment to measure the impact and effectiveness of the implementations and identify areas for potential improvements. One firm helping with such analyses is Impact Research.

Incorporated this year, the Sanaʽa-based firm is staffed by a team of professional consultants and researchers who aim to become the leading consultancy in Yemen – serving both the private and public sector with a comprehensive range of provisions in advisory, research and analysis, monitoring and evaluation, project management design, planning, and implementation, and capacity-building and training, blending global best practice with deep local insight.

So far the firm’s clients include among others Oxfam, the International Labor Organization, German development agency GIZ and the UNDP, with Impact Research providing in-the-field research, assessments, reporting, monitoring and evaluations to gauge the performance and effectiveness of various relief projects, aiming to gain greater knowledge along the way to help improve future practices and interventions while disseminating that knowledge in turn.

“We have learned that impact in Yemen is not as intuitive as one thinks,” the firm states. “The complexity of the situation makes small efforts full of impact, while much money can create very negative and unintended consequences.” It adds, spiritedly; “The Yemen crisis has opened new opportunities for the Yemeni people as much as it has closed many. The catastrophe has pushed all of us to see the light in the dark, and to identify the opportunities between the ashes.”

Related: BCG partners with the WFP on refugee food security innovations in Jordan.