Charles Russell LLP, the Bahrain-appointed administrator of Awal Bank BSC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s embattled Saad Group owned by Saudi billionaire Maan al-Sanea, has asked a U.S. court for an extension of the deadline to file schedules of assets and liabilities and a statement of financial affairs in the bank’s application for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The request follows rejection last week by the New York court of Awal Bank’s initial application for limited Chapter 11 because the troubled bank was asking to be allowed to keep information confidential and to be exempted from the need to create a U.S. creditors committee. At the same time, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper kept the door open for Awal to repetition the court provided it the bank agreed to establish such a committee. Gropper said he would allow more time to assess the information provided give creditors the opportunity for creditors to make representations.
In the request for an extension, Charles Russell said it needed additional time to canvass creditors’ views and would only once it had done so decide whether it wished to further pursue Chapter 11 protection. The Office of the United States Trustee indicated that it had no objection to Charles Russell request for an extension of the deadline.
Awal initially applied last month for Chapter 11 protection saying that it would help the bank recover “avoidable” transfers out of its estate prior to the bankruptcy. The Chapter 11 filing came little more than a year after Awal had filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy in the same court. Chapter 15 bankruptcy seeks to protect companies from U.S. litigation while they reorganize in a non-U.S. court.
Defaults on loans last year by Awal Bank as well as Saudi conglomerate, Ahmad Hamad Al-Gosaibi & Brothers Co. set off a bitter legal battle on three continents between the two groups that are related by al Sanea’s marriage to a daughter of the Al-Ghosaibi family. Al-Gosaibi has accused Al-Sanea in court filings on three continents of siphoning off $10 billion from his in-laws.
Al-Gosaibi is seeking to recover $9.2 billion in lawsuits in the Cayman Islands against al-Sanea and Awal subsidiaries. The lawsuits were stayed after al-Sanea challenged the Cayman court’s jurisdiction, and an appeal of that decision is set to be heard in November. In July, New York State Supreme Judge Hon. Richard B. Lowe dismissed a lawsuit Al-Gosaibi had filed against Awal and al- Sanea, on grounds of that court being an improper forum. Court proceedings involving Awal are also ongoing in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Britain.
Awal’s original Chapter 11 court filing suggested that it would it file a reorganization plan or opt for liquidation in Bahrain rather than the United States. Even though the court papers kept reorganization on the table, the Chapter 11 filing suggests that liquidation is the more likely option. According to its court filing, Awal has assets valued at most at $100 million and liabilities of more than $1 billion. Under Bahrain law, the administrator has until the summer of next year to decide whether to liquidate Awal or return it to its owners.
Assuming that the bankruptcy filing was made with the consent of the Bahrain Central Bank, the filing suggests that Bahrain has decided that Awal is beyond salvation and should be liquidated. In its filing, Awal asserts that after payment of the administrators and other immediate expenses, it will not be able to compensate its unsecured creditors, who number somewhere between 60 and 100 and include: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, AlGosaibi Money Exchange, Bank of Montreal, Bayerische Hypo-und Vereinsbank, Bayerische Landesbank, Boubyan Bank, Calyon Corporate and Investment Bank, Commercial Bank of Kuwait, Commercial Bank of Qatar, Commerzbank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Fortis Bank, Gulf International Bank, HSBC, HSH Nordbank AG, JP Morgan, Kuwait Finance House and The International Banking Corporation.