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Al-Gosaibi settlement in sight after breakthrough court ruling

The Al-Gosaibis blamed their business collapse on Maan Al-Sanea. (AFP)
The Al-Gosaibis blamed their business collapse on Maan Al-Sanea. (AFP)
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03 Jan 2020 02:01:37 GMT9
03 Jan 2020 02:01:37 GMT9

Frank Kane

DUBAI: The Commercial Court in Dammam has approved a plan to end the decade-long stand-off between banks and the Al-Gosaibi business over more than SR44 billion ($11.73 billion) of debts owed since the family-run firm ran into financial trouble in 2009.

The court, under the chairmanship of Judge Abdullah Abdulrahman Al-Yabis, allowed around SR27.8 billion of the total claimed amount to be included in a “financial restructuring procedure” (FRP) made possible by the Kingdom’s new bankruptcy laws.

Although SR16.77 billion of claims were rejected by the court, most of that sum related to claims against the family partnership Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers (AHAB) by Maan Al-Sanea and companies associated with him. These claims are still in dispute between the two warring factions, who are related by marriage.

Court documents sent to creditors and seen by Arab News state: “If the court decides to accept the claim or part thereof, it will be included in the list of claims as an approved claim for the purpose of voting; and as the court reviewed the list of claims and related objections, it hereby ratified the list of claims as follows,” before going on to detail 150 claims by global, regional and Saudi banks, as well as Al-Sanea companies.

“As such, the court hereby decided to approve the list of creditor claims against AHAB,” the document said.

That decision allows AHAB and its advisers to proceed with the next stages of the settlement process, involving an assessment of the assets still held by the family and a proposal to distribute some of those assets to creditors. Bankruptcy trustee Bader Hatem Al-Tamimi is expected to begin this process immediately.

If the plan had not been approved, it could have led to a scramble among creditors in a “fire sale” of AHAB assets, the closure of businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs.

“With this decision, there is a clear path ahead and now it’s foot to the floor towards a settlement,” Simon Charlton, chief restructuring officer and acting CEO of AHAB, told Arab News.

“Now that the court has issued the list of approved claims AHAB looks forward to the formation of a creditors’ committee, and the finalization of a proposal as to how claims should be dealt with and the assets distributed through a consensual settlement.

“AHAB is hopeful that swift progress can be made and, subject to the approval by creditors of the proposal and ratification by the commercial court, that initial distributions can be made to creditors in the first half of this New Year.

“The release of the approved list of claims allows us to move forward in bringing this matter to a close,” Charlton said.

The dispute involved legal actions on three continents and has clocked up more than $100 million in fees to lawyers and other advisers during the past decade.

It appeared intractable until Saudi Arabia introduced a bankruptcy law in 2018 designed to modernize insolvency procedures in the Kingdom.

Al-Sanea and his Saad Group of companies are also seeking to use a FRP to deal with their substantial debts, but no details have yet emerged.

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