UK heavyweight adviser at Dubai debt table, say sources

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The Independent Online

A former British government minister and adviser to the G20 chair has been in Dubai for several weeks and played a key role in hammering out a debt proposal for Dubai World, sources said today.

Shriti Vadera was quietly despatched to the Gulf Arab emirate by the British government after British banks - who form the bulk of an informal creditor committee negotiating with Dubai World on how it will repay $26 billion in debt - raised concerns about the process to London, one source said.

A second source confirmed her presence in Dubai as well as her participation in the drafting of the debt proposal.

Dubai World, which counts the QE2 ocean liner among its assets, was locked in a meeting with core creditors at a Dubai hotel today.

The state-owned conglomerate's plan is expected to include an extension of debt maturities at low to zero interest rates and rely heavily on support from wealthy neighbour Abu Dhabi.

In mid-February, a report that creditors may get just 60 cents on the dollar created an uproar and dented stock markets.

That 40 percent "haircut" report was widely seen as a trial balloon.

Vadera, a former investment banker who was a close advisor to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, has kept a low profile in Dubai and made no official public appearances.

Vadera was a UK business minister until it was announced in September that she would become adviser to the chair of the G20 group of nations, South Korea.

The panel of creditor representatives meeting with Dubai World includes Standard Chartered, HSBC, Lloyds, Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as local banks Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which are believed to have two-thirds of the total exposure.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, a unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group is the seventh member.

Britain's top banks are expected to avoid massive losses on Dubai World's debt pile, but have already seen about £1 billion ($1.5 wiped off profits due to problem loans in Dubai and the region last year.