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9 Apr 2007

CBB Sets Up Hedge Fund Regulations

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) is finalizing new regulations that they hope will open up the development of a regional industry of hedge funds, derivatives and other alternative investment instruments.

Requirements for the registration of such higher risk and volatile instruments in Bahrain are contained in a new regulatory framework for collective investment undertakings (CIUs), which the CBB plans to issue later this month.

The new framework, which updates regulations governing mutual funds, will also introduce Bahrain's first-ever rules allowing CIUs targeting professional investors. It will permit exempt schemes subject only to limited regulation (such as hedge funds), but which may only be sold to a high net worth institutional and investor base.

At present, Bahrain leads the region as a hedge fund center, with over 2,000 authorised funds, including over 100 locally domiciled funds. The new CIU regulations will further enhance and develop the market, by allowing a much broader range of CIU to be domiciled and offered in Bahrain, all within a credible regulatory framework.

The new framework will create a new category of "Exempt" schemes. These schemes will be required only to register with the CBB, rather than be authorized, and will not be subject to on-going supervision. They will not be regulated, but may only be sold to a restricted investor base;- those able to make a minimum investment of US$100,000, and with at least US$1 million in financial assets, and subject to verification by the institution selling the product that the investor fully understands the risks involved.

The rules for Exempt schemes will allow hedge funds and other higher risk alternative investment vehicles to be legally domiciled and/or sold in Bahrain, within an appropriate regime that recognizes the sophistication of this limited investor base.

"Currently, Middle East investors have to look overseas for such products. The CBB regulations, however, will enable regional access to such instruments." said Mr. Al Baker, Executive Director at the CBB, whose responsibilities include the supervision of CIUs.

Rivals to Bid in Hedge Fund Driven Dutch Bank Sale

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Spanish bank Grupo Santander Central Hispano of Madrid are combining their efforts to counter bid Barclays in the hedge fund driven sale of Dutch bank ABN.

ABN Amro Holding was in preliminary discussions with Barclays about creating a company worth more than $177 billion, this would be a record deal in the financial sector. In March hedge fund TCI announced in a letter to Dutch bank ABN Amro that they believe the bank is undervalued and should sell some of its assets, merge with another bank, or even sell off the whole business.

Activist hedge funds and shareholders Polygon and Centaurus backed up TCI's demands by increasing their stakes in ABN in order to pressure the bank into the sale. According to a British newspaper report, the offer could be presented immediately after Barclays makes a formal bid for the bank and would involve a break-up of the Dutch bank.

In 2005 TCI was part of a group of activist investors who criticized Deutsche Börse for its $2.5 billion bid for the London Stock Exchange, eventually causing Werner Seifert, the chief executive to resign. It turns out TCI, which owned 8% of Deutsche Börse, actively recruited some powerful partners, including Atticus Capital, Merrill Lynch, and Fidelity Investments, in order to facilitate the move.

Centaurus is one of the activist shareholders that was embroiled in a dispute with Dutch companies Stork NV and Royal Ahold NV last year, and Polygon Investment Partners is a British equity fund that was involved in the sale of Dutch publisher VNU.