update deskMiddle East

Kushner to make first-ever Saudi-backed investment in Israel

Affinity Partners is set to acquire a stake in an Israeli automotive services company.

Senior U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner ahead of his departure with US-Israeli delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Senior U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner ahead of his departure with US-Israeli delegation from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi, at the Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Jared Kushner’s Affinity Partners private equity fund, which is primarily backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is set to acquire a $150 million stake in an Israeli automotive services company, marking the first Saudi-backed investment in the Jewish state.

Kushner’s fund will buy a 15% stake in the car and credit division of Shlomo Holdings, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing financial filings.

“We are confident in the long-term growth forecast for Israel and the entire new Middle East,” Kushner said. “The historical growth of the Shlomo Group has been solid as a rock, and its future holds many exciting opportunities.”

Kushner, who served as senior White House adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald Trump, was a key negotiator in the 2020 Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and four Arab countries: United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

Shlomo began in 1974 as a small car-rental company but now also offers services to corporate auto fleets, including leasing, roadside assistance and car maintenance. The business is still family-owned, and Affinity will be Shlomo’s first outside equity investor.

“This is a significant and strategic step and is a historic landmark in the group’s international activities and a tremendous potential for adding value, in particular in the areas of rental, leasing and credit,” said Asi Shmeltzer, chairman of Shlomo Group.

“The entry of an investor of strategic value, such as the Affinity Fund, will help us expand our ties for businesses and find new economic opportunities for the group’s companies in the Middle East, the U.S. and other countries,” he added.

The news comes as the Biden administration attempts to broker a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Diplomatic efforts are ongoing, but such a deal isn’t imminent, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last month. Sullivan has traveled to Riyadh numerous times over the past year to broker a deal.

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