(Bloomberg) -- Talal Al Zain, the former chief executive officer of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, has joined an Israeli firm that aims to invest in companies in the Middle East and North Africa and introduce Israeli technologies to the region. 

Al Zain was named chief investment officer of Exigent Capital Group and has been put in charge of the company’s new office in Manama, Bahrain, which opened earlier this year, the company said. The firm, which also has offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, estimates it will inject $500 million into middle-market companies over the next two years, with a focus on health care, food security, energy, water, and education.

A former senior executive at PineBridge Investments and Investcorp as well as Bahrain’s Mumtalakat fund, Al Zain said he was eyeing Israeli-produced technologies that could be used to “build economic bridges between Israel and the region, to create economic benefits to both sides.”

Israel and Bahrain established diplomatic relations in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, with the promise of booming business ties, particularly surrounding Israeli technology. Bahrain’s trade with Israel, however, has lagged far behind that of its larger Gulf neighbor, the United Arab Emirates, which recognized Israel at the same time. 

Read More: Why Peace Between Israel and Gulf Countries Matters: QuickTake

Exigent’s CEO Elie Brender said that the investments will extend to countries that don’t recognize Israel, including Saudi Arabia, where the firm hopes to open another office. In some cases, the firm may broker joint ventures with Israeli tech companies and Middle Eastern businesses. 

“We want to create jobs in the region, we want to create GDP in the region” as it moves to a more service-oriented economy, Brender said in an interview.  

Exigent, which declined to disclose the amount of assets it manages, said it has a stake in private equity firm HighPost Capital and is the operator of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem. Former US ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta is among a string of high-profile individuals, family offices, and institutional investors that have put money in the firm, it said. 

Ron Dermer, a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was formerly a partner at Exigent Capital Group before he returned to political life as a minister late last year. Dermer is seeking a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The US has recently stepped up its efforts to begin negotiating a peace deal between the two countries, shuttling officials between Riyadh and Jerusalem, though an agreement isn’t imminent.

 

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