Perella Weinberg Bankers Break to Form New Boutique in Gulf

Perella Weinberg Partners LP’s Middle East team of bankers left to start its own advisory firm in Dubai to get a slice of the buoyant market for deals and restructurings in the region.

Tarek Anabtawi, until December the head of Perella’s Middle East operations, and Jameel Akhrass, a senior adviser at the New York-based firm, have founded Resonance Capital and started the process of applying for a license. Anabtawi said they will be joined by former Perella colleagues Hesham Sbayteh and Ayman Anwar as partners.

ResCap won’t entirely cut its ties with Perella. The two firms are setting up a strategic partnership that allows the Dubai boutique to work on regional deals as well as on more complex cross-border transactions with the U.S. investment bank.

For Perella, which was founded in 2006 with the backing from wealthy Gulf investors, that means it will retain its access to clients as it pulls out of the region by closing its Abu Dhabi and Dubai offices. ResCap and Perella are currently working on a half-dozen deals, Anabtawi said.

A spokeswoman for Perella -- which agreed to go public late last year after combining with a blank-check company -- confirmed the partnership with ResCap, but declined to comment for this story.

Second Act

In setting up their own shop, Anabtawi and Akhrass are treading the path pursued by other investment bankers in the Gulf who bet they could win mandates on deals that bulge-bracket firms will pass on. Former Morgan Stanley executive May Nasrallah created deNovo Corporate Advisors and Ziad Awad, previously at Bank of America Corp., formed Awad Capital. Ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. bankers founded Trussbridge Advisory Ltd.

The strategy has paid off, with boutiques now earning almost a quarter of all investment-banking fees paid in the region, up from just 9% in 2009, according to Freeman Consulting Services. DeNovo was recently hired by debt-laden construction firm Arabtec Holding to sell a key business, while Trussbridge is working on the restructuring of Abu Dhabi investment firm KBBO Group.

By contrast, Japan’s Nomura Holdings Inc. has cut several investment banking jobs and closed three offices in the Middle East. Deutsche Bank AG has also scaled back its regional presence in the past two years as part of a wider global restructuring.

Deals Boom

Despite the economic drag of lower oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, the region has retained its appeal for investment bankers as some Gulf lenders look to consolidate to cut costs, while large corporate businesses embark on complex restructurings that involve asset sales.

State entities such as Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. and sovereign wealth fund ADQ have been behind a stream of deals. And in Saudi Arabia, the government’s economic reforms have spurred a raft of initial public offerings and privatizations. A restoration of ties between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors is also improving sentiment for deals.

The partnership between Anabtawi and Akhrass goes back almost back 15 years when they both worked for the now-defunct Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. They were also colleagues at Nomura. Akhrass opened Perella’s Abu Dhabi office in 2010, in what was only the bank’s second overseas branch.

Anabtawi and the rest of the team at ResCap advised on a wide range of regional deals, including the sale of BNP Paribas SA’s Egypt assets to Dubai’s Emirates NBD PJSC and Majid Al Futtaim’s acquisition of the franchise operator of French retailer Geant. Most recently, Perella advised on the sale of NMC Health’s fertility business. It also worked on the merger of Barwa Bank QSC and International Bank of Qatar QSC.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.