Carlyle Group looks to MENA expansion

As the Carlyle Group looks to expand, two new directors have been recruited to make specific moves into the Middle East and North Africa region

March 7, 2012

The Carlyle Group, has been steadily increasing its presence in both the Middle East and North Africa over the last few years. In a recent corporate shift, the company announced that its head of MENA operations, Walid Musallam, was stepping down and that the firm would be naming two directors to take his place. There are those who believe that this change may spark a new direction for the firm’s investment strategy in that region of the world.

The new directors at Carlyle Group
The new MENA managing directors at the Carlyle Group are Firas Nasir, who will focus on the Middle East, and Can Deldag, who will focus on investments in Turkey. Both men are administrators of Carlyle’s MENA Buyout Fund.

Nasir got his start with Carlyle in 2007, having previously worked with Credit Suisse First Boston and UBS. He is based in Dubai, where he plays a large part in handling Carlyle’s Middle East operations. Prior to his promotion, Nasir was actively involved in Carlyle’s investment in Saudi Arabia’s General Lighting Company.

Deldag was an outside hire, having worked with accounting giant Ernst & Young prior to his being hired by Carlyle. He brings a wealth of experience to the firm, have also previously served as head of Mergers and Acquisitions in Turkey for Arthur Andersen, LLP. Deldag is based in Istanbul, Turkey.

How the company intends to invest in the Middle East and Africa
Carlyle began investing in the Middle East and North Africa back in 2009 with the creation of a £318m fund. Using the fund, Carlyle has made five key investments in the area to date. One of the most profitable investments so far has involved the firm’s purchasing a large stake in Alamar Foods, the Middle Eastern operator of popular restaurant franchises, including Wendy’s and Domino’s Pizza. The firm also bought a large stake in Turkish education provider Bahcesehir Koleji. Both purchases have performed well for Carlyle, demonstrating the increased market for service industries as median income levels rise in the area.

Despite the record of instability in the region, Carlyle’s new directors are not abandoning the firm’s intention to invest in either locale. In a company statement regarding the returns of the MENA Buyout Fund and the company’s prior purchases, Carlyle said: “The fund is showing strong progress and the four recent investments, which have been in Turkey or the GCC are performing very well.” However, the company has decided to refocus its attentions on more profitable and steady areas of the market.

Speaking about the firm’s previous investments, Nasir said the firm would remain in business with its companies. “We continue to monitor opportunities in North Africa and support our portfolio companies there”, he said. Deldag underlined the firm’s ultimate goal, saying: “We will continue to focus our investments on the regions where we see the most opportunities for value creation.” Carlyle closed its Egypt office last spring after the political turmoil there effectively halted any investment opportunities in the country.