Lehman veteran to head KKR in Middle East

Financial sponsor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co has appointed Lehman BrothersÆ head of sovereign wealth funds, Makram Azar, to set up an office for KKR in the Middle East and North Africa. Akram will develop the distribution of KKR products in the Mena region and source private equity and infrastructure deals for the US-headquartered firm.

Lehman appointed Azar in April this year to a newly created position based in Dubai. Azar was to head coverage of global sovereign wealth funds and also play the role of chairman of media investment banking for Europe and the Middle East. AzarÆs role was envisaged as cross-divisional and consequently he reported to Jeremy Isaacs, Lehman's chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, and Steve Lessing, global head of senior relationship management, as well as to Jasjit Bhattal, CEO for Asia-Pacific.

The move was intended to reflect LehmanÆs commitment to servicing state-owned investment institutions around the world. Lehman was one of the first investment banks to create a division specifically to cover SWFs.

Azar joined Lehman Brothers in 1990. Before moving to Dubai, he led media, consumer and retail investment banking businesses in Europe and the Middle East.

KKR has operated in Asia since 2005 and currently has offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. It is also in the process of opening a Mumbai office.

Deals KKR has announced or closed in the region include: a $2.66 billion buyout of Avaga Technologies in Singapore; a buyout of FlextronicsÆs India-based software business for about $900 million; the acquisition of Singapore-listed MMI Holdings for S$1 billion ($700 million); a S$785 million deal to take-private Singapore-listed Unisteel; and a $250 million investment in Indian firm Bharti Infratel.

KKR is upping the ante in the region as it seeks to deploy capital in high-growth opportunities. Only days ago it announced it was appointing Yoshiharu Fukuhara, a member of the Shiseido founding family, as senior adviser for the firm in Japan.

KKR said Azar would be hiring people to support him in the Dubai office, although there was no clarity on how big the team in Dubai is intended to be. Further, a spokesperson for KKR said information related to Azar's start date and negotiations has not been disclosed.

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