The National – Greece has approved the sale of its main shipyard to Abu Dhabi Mar, a holding company that owns a string of luxury yacht and naval shipyards in Europe and the UAE.

The deal will help the UAE company to expand its portfolio of European shipyards, which includes assets in France and Germany, and will see it gain new capabilities in manufacturing submarines.

The agreement, which was announced on Friday, involves the transfer of a 75 per cent stake in Hellenic Shipyards, also known as Skaramanga, to Abu Dhabi Mar from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany. ThyssenKrup will retain a 25 per cent stake.

A draft contract was announced in March, and last week’s agreement paves the way for the matter to be brought before the Greek parliament at the end of this month.

The deal is tied to pending submarine contracts with the Greek government and to Abu Dhabi Mar’s takeover of other ThyssenKrupp shipyards.

The complex dealings were described by the Greek defence ministry as full of “tough and painful negotiations that on occasion reached the limit of failure”.

“The Greek government, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Abu Dhabi Mar today jointly announce that they have reached an agreement by finalising the contract text,” the ministry said. “A new page opens for the Greek Navy, Skaramanga Shipyards and the entire Greek shipbuilding and ship repair sector.”


skandar Safa, the managing director of Abu Dhabi Mar, cautioned that “further steps still need to be taken” before the contract comes into effect”.

Abu Dhabi Mar’s recent activities paint a picture of an ambitious young firm that is fast-growing, politically connected and well-funded.

Since 1996, the emirate’s naval shipbuilding has centred on Abu Dhabi Ship Building, which is traded on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. A major stake is held by Mubadala Development, a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

In October 2008, a second naval shipbuilding front opened locally with the debut of Abu Dhabi Mar. It announced that it was overhauling two former Dutch frigates that were in service with the UAE Navy and would retrofit the 135 and 141 metre-long vessels into luxury yachts for unidentified clients.

Its assets include ADMShipyards in Musaffah, where it is rebuilding the former frigates on a site capable of building and refitting vessels of up to 200 metres in length. The 171,900 square metre yard accommodates 750 employees.

In July last year, Abu Dhabi Mar acquired the German shipyard Nobiskrug, which also specialises in naval and commercial vessels, and custom yachts. Nobiskrug has 420 workers on a 173,000 sq metre site.

The Abu Dhabi holding company, which lists its stakeholders as Al Ain International Group and Privinvest, also controls the CMN shipyard in Cherbourg, France. CMN is partnering with Abu Dhabi Ship Building on the US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) contract to build six corvettes for the UAE Navy.

Abu Dhabi Mar is also in the process of taking over a number of ThyssenKrupp shipyards in Germany and has also outlined plans to form a joint venture with the German firm in the naval surface ship business. The deal was given the green light by the European Commission last month.

With the Hellenic deal, Abu Dhabi Mar will enter the submarine business. As part of the shipyard acquisition, the Greek government has agreed to replace a planned overhaul of two older submarines with an order for two new submarines in a deal worth €175 million (Dh839.2m).

Greece is one of Europe’s largest arms importers, and a decade ago agreed on a submarine acquisition programme, which at one time totalled six new and refurbished submarines at a cost of €2.84bn.