Investment Goal

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The global economic slowdown is encouraging a spending spree from oil-rich governments in a wide range of sectors. After the Carlyle Group, Citigroup and New York's Chrysler building, investors in Abu Dhabi are looking to opportunities presented in sport and film production.

Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment (ADUG), a special investment vehicle set up by prominent Emirati businessmen, has recently bought English premier league team, Manchester City Football Club. Sulaiman Al Fahim, front man of ADUG, announced that Manchester City's owner, Thaksin Shinawatra, the ex-Thai Prime Minister, had agreed to the takeover bid. According to the local press, negotiations between the football club and ADUG began three weeks ago and were completed early September in Abu Dhabi.

Financial details and terms of the deal were not made available, but it is believed to be in the region of $360m. The consortium will be given all management rights.

With the ink still wet on the buyout contract, ADUG financed the purchase of Brazilian footballer Robinho for a British transfer record of $58.3m.

On buying the club, Al Fahim told the local press, "We will release details later, but this is a great event for both the club and Abu Dhabi."

From the emirate's perspective, the deal will go a long way in increasing its reputation as a capital for both sports and economics.

It was in a similar style that Mubadala, a government-owned investor, helped bring Formula One to Abu Dhabi, beginning in 2009. It was its purchase of a 5% stake in Ferrari in 2005 that got the proverbial ball rolling in hosting the annual motor race.

Al Fahim's promise "to open new horizons in all kinds of sports," appears to be in line with the state's sagacious economic strategy to diversify its economy away from oil and gas.

It is, however, thanks to a windfall of petrodollars that Abu Dhabi - which sits atop 95% of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s oil - is awash with liquidity. Pumping 2.6m barrels per day, the UAE capital has enjoyed healthy current account surpluses and will generate more than $100bn in surplus this year alone.

Having such financial buoyancy has made investing abroad an attractive option. Moreover, the onset of the global economic slowdown has meant that many foreign economies welcome international investment with open arms, albeit with occasional terms attached.

Abu Dhabi has taken full advantage of this: in July, Abu Dhabi Investment Council's $800m purchase of New York's iconic Chrysler building attracted international attention. In September 2007 Mubadala bought 7.5% of one of the world's largest private equity firms, the Carlyle Group for $1.35bn. And November last year saw the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority invest $7.5bn to acquire a 4.9% stake in Citigroup.

Other investments have included an $8bn partnership deal between Mubadala and General Electric (GE) in July. Together they plan to invest in a clutch of industries across the region. The Middle East represents one of GE's fastest growing markets, generating around $5bn of its $172.9bn in revenue last year.

Most recently, Abu Dhabi announced plans last week to invest $1bn in a media firm, to be called "imagenation abu dhabi". The company will produce eight feature films a year, over a period of five years, in enterprises with Hollywood, Bollywood and local producers. It is via state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), owner of a slew of print and broadcast firms, that "imagenation abu dhabi" will be launched.

The Financial Times stated that the media company will release its first co-production partnerships in the coming weeks. Many industry insiders view Abu Dhabi as trying to position itself as the Gulf's leading media hub. Although it faces stiff competition from neighbouring Dubai, Abu Dhabi is already home to some of the biggest media names in the Arab world, such as Emirate Media Inc. (EMI).

Clearly, Abu Dhabi's policy agenda is to broaden its economic base away from oil and gas into services, tourism and manufacturing. While its international conquests and movie enterprise help to diversify revenue streams, they also create international awareness and, not least of all, a buzz about the emirate, both regionally and internationally.

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