By Ben Roberts

Arabtec Holding, the UAE’s largest builder by market value, is to sell US $150 million worth of five-year convertible bonds to fund its continuing expansion across the Middle East.

The builder of the Burj Khalifa will also sell more than 398 million shares to existing stakeholders, one new share for every three they hold at one dirham per share, according to a notification to the stock exchange.

Dubai-listed Arabtec is looking to diversify away from its home market following the slump in the real estate sector that put a freeze on the development of around half the projects. The downturn led a 96% fall in the company’s net profits for the third quarter last year against that of 2009.

The upcoming funds will “support the company’s expansion plans to the new markets and increase its working capital,” it said. Saudi Arabia, Abu DHabi, Egypt and Syria are among its target areas for projects, Thomas Barry, CEO of subsidiary Arabtec Construction, told an audience at the Construction Week conference in the UAE capital last November. The subsidiary has won three contracts already this year.

The company currently has a market capitalisation of AED 2.27 billion. It’s shares closed down 2% yesterday to AED 1.9 per share.